Italy is not particularly a place you’d associate with death metal (or metal as a whole for that matter). However, one band hailing from the historical city of Rome is Hour of Penance. Comprised of four members, they formed in 1999 and released their debut album ‘Disturbance’ in 2003. They have made 5 albums in total.
Let’s set the record straight here; Hour of Penance are not exactly pushing boundaries with the albums that they release, and this is no different for 2010’s ‘Paradogma’. Everything that you’d expect to hear from a modern day death metal band, for better or for worse, is incorporated on this album; heavy, down-tuned riffs, lightning fast drumming, brutal vocals and pretentious song names are all plentiful. If you’re looking for something innovative, something unique, something which pushes boundaries and raises the bar for death metal, then this is not the album for you.
That said, Paradogma is still a great album. Hour of Penance are often compared to modern-day death metal titans Nile and Behemoth, and the first similarity that can be drawn from these bands is the drumming. In Mauro Mercurio, Hour of Penance have an extremely talented drummer. He never lets up in this album, constantly hammering away at his double bass pedals and performing blast beats at the speed of light, which is very easily comparable to George Kollias of Nile. He also does backing vocals, which fuse brilliantly with main vocalist Francesco Paoli’s already-excellent harsh growls, to give them an almost schizophrenic edge, adding to the chaos displayed throughout Paradogma.
The guitars (performed by Giulio Moschini) are excellent, and the typical modern-day production of the album helps give them a razor sharp and more brutal edge. However, the riffs can be hard to hear at times over the onslaught on the drum-kit. The solos are decent enough, although not very memorable at all.
Sadly, the bass is very inaudible on this album, just as it is more often than not with most bands these days. This is one of the album’s major weak points, as it seems to restrict Hour of Penance slightly in terms of setting themselves apart from other bands producing death metal in this day and age.
Another thing that hinders this album majorly is the extreme lack of variation. As I’ve mentioned before, the drumming, the guitars and the vocals are excellent. However, they are very stagnant throughout the 10 tracks, and from the eerie and climatic intro of the first track ‘Paradogma’, to the chaotic ending track ‘Apotheosis’ (which features some words spoken frantically in Latin), variation is very scarce. This is another thing which majorly stops this band from being something really special and unique in modern-day death metal. However, this is perhaps balanced by the fact that none of the songs are overdone in terms of length and structure, and they are all just straight-up, no nonsense death metal tracks, and thus it is hard to get bored listening to this album.
Overall then, Hour of Penance certainly deserve a place as being one of the better bands in 21st century death metal, possessing some very skilled members in the drummer Mauro Mercurio and vocalist Francesco Paoli. Paradogma is indeed a very fun album to listen to and definitely worth having if you’re a fan of death metal. However, their lack of variety is a major hindrance in their progress as a band, and they need to do something a little more refreshing and different in future releases in order to set themselves apart from the seemingly endless number of death metal bands existing today.