Being in the shadow of a peer from the same part of the world, in terms of popularity, is not something new in metaldom. And more often than not, the band in the shadow is usually far better sounding than the one towering over it. In that case Hour of Penance and Fleshgod Apocalypse are sample case studies. This despite the fact that Fleshgod was nothing but an offshoot (thanks to ex-HoP vocalist Francesco Paolo) of HoP.
When you examine individual albums like say The Vile Conception and Paradogma, you’d find that they were more than just run of the mill brutal death metal. They were far better in terms of craftsmanship and delivery than their immediate peers in Fleshgod Apocalypse. Fleshgod for me is too much of that pomp and show and in the end sounds like a rather poor caricature of latter day Septic Flesh. Hour of Penance are a tour de force of punishing rhythm and blistering speed which do not just make you fall off the chair, but splinter it at multiple points. Yet what set them apart from the rest of the BDM milieu are those riffs that bleed melody as much as they do brutality. Riffs that are technical yet neatly carved out and complete with leadwork that gush out through multiple orifices. This inevitably grants the band with that much elusive power of recollection to the average listener.
To the uninitiated I’d say they sound like the bastard child of Nile and Hate Eternal. An espousal of the best parts of both bands. Sedition their last album, with new vocalist Paolo Pieri, was a fine tuning of sorts and saw the band making the melody employed more prominent, all the while taking special care not to tone down their forte of brute force. It seemed that a balance was struck, and clearly edged the album over the rest of their discography.
Regicide, their latest, on the other hand seems to see the band lose some of that magical finishing agent. Everything Hour of Penance has come to be known for, are all there. The relentless double bass driven assault, guitars that wrench first and crush later, a fair amount of melody and winding leads are all in attendance. Yet that careful craft of presenting them in a form greater than the sum of their individual parts is sorely found lacking.
Lets go into a bit of detail. The ever-so-common scene setter intro comes as an industrial track Through the Triumphal Arch. This then gives way to Reforging the Crowns that bursts in to reveal those infectious melodic hooks one by one, that mount, topple and entangle each other only to explode into a relentless barrage of riffage and double bass. Best track and lead single Desecrated Souls would sound more at home on Paradogma or Sedition, for there is ample amount of those deep piercing hooks, badass downtuned arpeggio sections, chanted vocals that double as both atmosphere and main motif. At this point things do look good and the album is poised to be, to say the least, another good if not great HoP record. Resurgence of the Empire follows a path much similar structure-wise, but never fails to emanate its own persona. Again things looking fairly decent. But the next bunch of tracks Spears of Sacred Doom, Sealed in Ecstasy (barring its cool intro and initial riffage) and Redeemer of Atrocity comes off completely soulless and extremely one-dimensional. All the elements seem to be just filling in on their functions but lack that much important coalescing agent. The title track shows a few signs of relief with a spruced up chorus, but fails to capitalize further. Giulio Moschini’s creative alley seems to have met with a dead end as the riffs fall off like lizards off wet glass, failing to stick which was usually not the case with an HoP record. The rest of the album save for The Seas of Light, with its chock full groovy riffage and Payne’s piston strapped beats, does not do enough to entitle a return to form.With a rather vapid bottom half and a bunch of good songs that pale in comparison to the ones on previous records, the album becomes more of a lackluster affair. The production quality although never really that bad, seems to have undergone a bit of compression after their last album. This leaves the riffs with a much diminished breathing space to develop and the drumbeats bereft of power (an injustice to James Payne’s impressive and consistent drum work).
Hour of Penance garbs itself in yet another raiment bedecked with jewels and intricate tapestry, but this one gives off a shade of pale grey. Not the spectacle you’d expect it to be. In the end just managing to be borderline desultory and derivative of its former self. Regicide is definitely not the album that I wished it would be. But hopefully this is nothing but a temporary hiccup in what is to be a long career.
RATING : 2.5/5
(This metal firmament is infested with screeds no better nor worse than this one. )
There is a full album stream happening at Decibel.