Review Summary: It's an album from Hour of Penance, and it almost scored as high as "Sedition". Does this review really need a summary?
With an earth-shattering 2012 effort in "Sedition
" and a respectable back-catalogue, Hour of Penance have been the go-to Italians for the country's technical death metal scene. Representing over fifteen years of commitment to grandeur, the band's sixth studio album "Regicide
" has enormous expectations of it, due in no small part to their previous release's reception. With James Payne returning to drum duty and Marco Mastrobuono taking up the bass guitar in lieu of Simone Piras, the Italian outfit has something to prove - is their latest effort worthy of the same ace that was given to "Sedition
", or will we see "Regicide
" kill the kings?
With Paolo Pieri reprising his role as both vocalist and guitarist, Hour of Penance's voice of blasphemy remains just as strong as always. While the vocal style hasn't changed much in the two years since "Sedition
", this album's engineering has given it the vocals much different vibe; the throaty, low growls are once again complimented with mid-pitched screams and the very occasional high shriek, but they are rarely seen mixed over one another. This change does give "Regicide
" the feel of a more oldschool kind of death metal, which is just different enough to give the new record some sense of individuality among the band's body of work. "Resurgence of the Empire" shows that this approach worked out for the better, as Pieri's throat gives way to powerful and unreserved brutality, driving the rest of the instrumentation to full speed.
With Pieri doubling his contributions to the band as a guitarist as well as a vocalist, and with the leadwork being done by Guilio Moschini, "Regicide
" has everything it needs to excel in the songwriting department. "Resurgence of the Empire" introduces the album to us by pummeling a series of high-octane, brutal riffs, while "Sealed into Ecstasy" shows a more technical flair as the guitarists tear into lead after lead, solo after solo. The title track combines the best of both worlds, with the band's despondent guitar tone being the one trademark of the album that is instantly recognisable in each and every track. Having each piece of "Regicide
" fit together well was clearly a top priority for the Italians, and with the record showcasing a sense of complexity in structure and an understanding of their limitations, Hour of Penance have powered through with flying colours.
The fills on "Sedition
" were a huge part of what brought home the bacon back in 2012, and with a different drummer on call for "Regicide
", it only makes sense to expect something less than perfect. Against all odds, however, James Payne came through for the band; tracks like "Desecrated Souls" showcase an incredible amount of versatility in such a short period of time, while "Redeemer of Atrocity" provides us with a look into the man's endurance as he pummels away at ludicrous speeds for an even more ludicrous length of time. High-speed and high-beat drumwork has always been a strong part of Hour of Penance's sound environment, and Payne's involvement on this album show that he's more than capable of breaking any and all speed limit laws with his pedals alone - just keep him away from a bike. Despite the lightning-fast hit-rate on the fills, the work on "Regicide
" shows a certain amount of control, each drum being pummeled with precision not often seen in death metal outfits. While his individual playing style might not be so different from other giants in the technical scene, Payne's approach to his kit was more than enough to skyrocket Hour of Penance's sound to the next level.
Despite the palpable amount of skill and passion exhibited in "Regicide
", it ultimately fails to earn its ace - and a large part of that missed point is due to the basswork, which appears to be missing in action. Undoubtedly, the bassline is there, serving as a backbone for the rest of the mix; the problem lies in ever being able to hear it over the chaotic but enjoyable cacophony that is Hour of Penance's instrumentation. Gone is the personality from the mix, replaced instead by a much more static and unmoving structure that fails to deviate from the norm as Piras' short bass solos become a thing of the past - and while it is what seems to be the only shortcoming of "Regicide
", it is still a shortcoming. That shouldn't scare anyone away from this release, though, as Hour of Penance have delivered a powerful forty-one-minute dynasty. Make no mistake; this record is a contender for the throne of album of the year. It proved that the Italians are not keen to rest on their laurels and not afraid of taking risks, even after delivering a supreme form of brutality with "Sedition
". If you're looking for a worthy death metal album with technical leanings, don't hesitate to add "Regicide
" to your collection. It may be king yet.