Metal Review – Hour of Penance: Regicide

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Metal Review – Hour of Penance: Regicide
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Hour of Penance: Regicide
Brutal Death Metal
Prosthetic Records
May 13th, 2014
Release length: 40:58
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Two years after their career defining fifth full-length Sedition and extensive touring, Hour of Penance return with their much anticipated follow-up album Regicide through Prosthetic Records. Sadly, in the time that passed between releases, dummer Simone Piras and bassist Silvano Leone parted ways with the band, which opened the door for the newly enlisted James Payne (Hiss from the Moat) and Marco Mastrobuono (Buffalo Grillz, former Blind Horizon) respectively. With that change there seemed to also come a shift of musical attitude, focusing more on the brutality than the technical aspect of their music. But does this affect the material on their latest effort, or is it the same old intensity as before?

While it’s clear much of the technicality Hour of Penance boasted is gone, you can still hear some subtle nods to it in the timing certain tracks have. “Reforging the Crowns” happens to be one of those. After the dusty and slavish introduction “Through the Triumphal Arch,” we are greeted with an intense lead in that mixes catchy riffs with blast beat intensity. The sudden spurts of similar speed to the kit are where these intricate elements take place. There are some complex chords in spots, such as around a minute and a half in for the guitar solo. There is a good deal of energy that is easy to pick up on, but the crisp audio comes through a little higher in pitch and with little bite from the instruments that clearly once had a it. The latter of the two effects the release much like it does on the Suffocation album Blood Oath.

Sadly that lack of any bite is present throughout the rest of the album, as does some standard Brutal Death Metal performances in the vein of Job for a Cowboy. “Resurgence of the Empire” does this and more thanks to some of the simpler hooks that do help to establish an eerie tone when used, as well as take away from what tension is being built. Just past the one minute mark of the robotic performance what aggression exists just suddenly drops to the simple, weaker bridge that appears constantly. “The Sun Worship” tries to bring back some complex riffs as well that aren’t too impressive to begin with, and in certain spots seem to need to slow down in order to be properly pulled off while the drums continue the rhythm at that machine gun pace without missing a beat.

“Redeemer of Atrocity” has a steady chugging foundation that isn’t much to look at but is one of the few that are genuinely catchy in a Behemoth sort of way. It’s an aggressive track with some additional technicality in spots but for the most part is a pretty steady slab of aggression that really does break the stigma of the diluted sound. The one thing that gets annoying is the odd empty effect on the vocal layering, or possibly the wooden part of the drum kit mixing in to make it sound tinny and incredibly distracting like about a minute and twenty seconds in. Then there’s “Desecrated Souls” and the consistent blast beat patterns from the drum kit that thwart the aforementioned audio issues. While the guitars do have a little technicality, it’s the groove heavy chorus with background choir chanting that not only makes the Middle Eastern/Egyptian elements shine through, but make this one of the very few songs you’ll end up banging your head along to.

But it seems by the time you hit “Resurgence of the Empire,” the music starts repeating itself with slight variations, or at least that’s the way it sounds. “The Seas of Light” is a prime example, as it feels like a slowed “Redeemer of Atrocity” at times. “The Sun Worship” has some similar elements to “Spears of Sacred Doom” as well, though the more technical aspects at least help separate the general tone of both songs. Nearly each song starts with the same slower atmospheric build, and there’s a few that end much like “The Sun Worship” as well finding the music just stopping suddenly. Also there is some kind of odd Progressive distortion to the solo on “The Seas of Light” that sounds horribly out of place despite the song just sounding like everything else, all ending with “Theogony” that just sounds like off-tempo performances that clash or come across like someone screwed up and no one bothered to edit them out of the first minute.

Regicide is guilty of being a bad recording on so many levels, and most of those infractions are or may be related to the over-sterilized audio. There’s no doubt that most of the material here is better than it appears here, which is evident by what clear enthusiasm that existed in the studio somehow wasn’t captured for the final pressing of the release. Instead fans or newcomers alike are given a very two-dimensional, sometimes robotic compilation of chords, patterns and vocals that seem to only repeat on itself until it finally limps across the finish line. Somewhere in all this there’s a moderately enjoyable EP at the very least made up of the first three songs and “Redeemer of Atrocity.” Spin after spin over the course of weeks just hoping something would click and make Regicide tolerable not only made this entire effort more grating to sit through but also illuminate additional flaws and like riffs from song to song. Sure some additional technicality would help but even with that out of the equation entirely, focusing on this as a straight forward Brutal Death Metal album you can’t help but ask why Hour of Penance signed off on this incredibly watered down effort is simply mind boggling. Despite a small handful of decent songs, Regicide ends up stale with very little lasting impact or appeal.

01. Through the Triumphal Arch – 0:56
02. Reforging the Crowns – 3:35
03. Desecrated Souls – 3:46
04. Resurgence of the Empire – 4:49
05. Spears of Sacred Doom – 3:28
06. Sealed Into Ecstasy – 3:51
07. Redeemer of Atrocity – 4:07
08. Regicide – 3:31
09. The Sun Worship – 3:56
10. The Seas of Light – 4:57
11. Theogany – 4:04
Initial Pressing Score: 4.5/10

Hour of Penance
Hour of Penance

Digital review copy of this release provided by Prosthetic Records.