Review: Hour of Penance – Cast the First Stone

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There is a fine line separating consistency and triteness; it’s easy for an artist to recycle material over and over, especially when they’ve been around for as long as Hour of Penance. It’s easy to point to other artists who play the same field as examples of this: the last couple Aborted albums, while fun, are nearly interchangeable; Cognizance plays literally all of their music at the same tempo (and most of it in the same key); and Fleshgod Apocalypse is, well, Fleshgod Apocalypse (though in all fairness, King tried a bunch of new stuff). Downtuned blastbeat marathons can be fun, but they get tiresome quickly; Hour of Penance seem to have realized this, changing things up a bit on 2014’s Regicide. Now, with Cast the First Stone, they take those changes a step further while streamlining their sound for a more varied, yet cohesive listening experience.

Cast the First Stone thunders out of the gate with “XXI Century Imperial Crusade,” a supremely violent headbanger that both hearkens back to the band’s roots and showcases their improved songwriting chops. Their riffs are creative as they’ve ever been here, moving with fluidity and savagery in equal measure and employing rests to devastating effect. Similarly, the drums are more varied and interesting than the constant deluge of blasts on prior records. The greater sense of melody developed on Regicide is present here as well, with a short but sweet guitar solo and more subtle, reserved leads interspersed throughout. Paolo Pieri’s vocal delivery is intense and unwavering; while he generally sticks to a low-mid scream, he accents his lines with enough doubled highs and lows to keep it interesting, certainly more so than on any previous record. It serves as a perfect overture to the album’s musical and lyrical themes, a harsh examination of the ideological clash of the East and West.

There are some surprises that aren’t hinted at on the opening track, though. A significant portion of the album is much slower than the typical Hour of Penance fare, and these segments are some of the best on the record. “Burning Bright” ditches the tremolo-and-blasts assault halfway through in favor of a regal half-time Phrygian riff and some experimentation with time signatures. “Iron Fist” picks up again immediately afterwards, but drops off to a crawling doom passage that evolves into one of the nastiest headbangers on the album. Closing tracks “Wall of Cohorts” and “Damnatio Memoriae” cap off the album with some light progressive and orchestral elements, again slowing the pace and relying on groove to bring power to the music. The variety is most welcome, and the band’s experimentation in this regard has paid off tremendously.

Across multiple listens, I not only found very little to complain about, but enjoyed it more with subsequent plays. Sure, the production is pretty sterile and it’s not like they’re reinventing the wheel musically, but it’s an incredibly competent album. The songs are varied, the already solid musicianship has been improved, and above all, it’s enjoyable for the entirety of its run. I do wish I would have had a copy of the lyrics on hand for this review given its weighty concept, but the music was certainly fun regardless (and you can hear more about the lyrics here at about 21:11 if you are curious). You won’t go wrong with this one, and for that it earns:

4/5 Toilets Burning Bright

NEW_TOILETSCALE_4_of_5

Cast the First Stone is out Friday, January 27th via Prosthetic Records and can also be acquired at Bandcamp. You can follow Hour of Penance on Facebook for updates and whatnot; let them know the Toilet says hello.

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  • CyberneticOrganism

    Toilet Toilet, burning bright
    In the baños of the night
    What expended TP rolls
    Could escape thy high toxicity?

    In what distant bowls or pipes
    Burnt the stinking of my wipes?
    On what flush dare I aspire
    To leave a double decker, dire?

    • Hear that? That’s the sound of Blake groaning emphatically in the abyss.

      • Howard Dean

        “[groans emphatically] Fuck this smack is really strong. [coughs] It’s like poetry, man. The abyss is really deep, and really dark. [groans] You’ll encounter a lot of fucking phonies and backstabbers there, like that fucking snake Neill Jameson, man. Dude’s never even sucked a dick for a rock–he only slobs knobs for fun and pleasure. [laughs] [coughs] [groans] [nods off]”

        http://www.metalsucks.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/blake_judd_2015.jpg

        • Óðinn

          Very descriptive.

        • Black Smallbeard

          *listens to Nachtmystium
          *hungers for heroin

          • Óðinn
          • Black Smallbeard

            i actually like quite a bit of his material, just too bad he’s a junkie

          • Óðinn

            Agreed. Regardless of his drug habit, I do like a some of his music.

          • Sir Kookaburra The Based

            Wait, aren’t you a junkie too?

          • Black Smallbeard

            no. plus im actually going on 4 months or so sober

          • Sir Kookaburra The Based

            That’s what a junkie would say! I caught you!

          • KyleJMcBride

            I’d have killed at least one person by now.

          • Black Smallbeard

            How do you know I haven’t

          • KyleJMcBride

            I knew that reply was coming.

          • KyleJMcBride

            Nah, that’s me you’re thinking of.

          • Sir Kookaburra The Based

            Yeah but i picture you as one of those cool druggies. The ones that don’t have a shirt with “420 blaze it” on it.

          • KyleJMcBride

            #RoxyLyfe in full effect

          • Black Smallbeard

            sounds like a grand ol time

          • KyleJMcBride

            YUSS

          • Sid Vicious Promos

            Off topic but did you know that Marc Almond of Soft Cell is in the Church of Satan? I wouldn’t have expected that from the guy behind Tainted Love.

          • Óðinn
          • KyleJMcBride

            I did not know that.

          • Sid Vicious Promos

            I found out via Wikipedia.

          • Sir Kookaburra The Based

            Not surprised. He was friends with Sleazy and John from Coil.

          • Óðinn
      • JWG79

        Abyssus abyssum ingemiscat.

    • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan2

      Roses are red,
      Violets are blue,
      Synyster Gates has 5 fingers…
      THE MIDDLE ONE IS FOR YOU!

      -!JoVengeanceGates, Mar 9, 2012

    • JWG79

      A+

      Two enthusiastic Seat Lids up.

    • Sid Vicious Promos

      This made me weep violently.

  • JWG79

    Possible (possibly already overdone) puns that ran through my mind:

    – Hour of Penis

    – Hour of Mikepence (same difference though, amiright?)

    – Hour of Penzance (featuring: Pirates)

  • Waynecro

    Stellar review, Spear! I am so pumped for this album.

  • Rain Poncho W.

    This is an ace review from an ace thrown weapon.

  • GL

    I look forward to hearing the rest of the album. Got pretty stoked after hearing our TOH Radio interview… Sweet.

    GL

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      GL! I’M SEEING UDO TONIGHT!

      MIDNIGHT MOVER!!!!

      • Óðinn
        • Brutalist_Receptacle

          MY BALLS ARE AGAINST THE WALL LITERALLY

      • tigeraid

        Nice. Jellie. Enjoy, hail, and kill posers.

      • GL

        COMING IN THE NIGHT, GOING WITH THE LIGHT!!!!

      • KyleJMcBride

        Nice, seen Accept 3 times(twice with Udo, once with the really bad lineup in 1989).

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Man, it was do good!!!

          That’s rad, I’d really like to see Udo and Wolf(one of my favorite guitarists) on the same stage together but I know that’ll never happen.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    Spear is killing it today!!!

    • Max

      He is. Great review of what sounds like a promising record.

  • I lurrrb this band! Tomorrow we feast
    (Dat artwork too…Hopefully it doesn’t become a shirt stain)

  • KyleJMcBride

    OT: gnu Mastodong song, kinda has a Blood Mountain-ish feel to it. https://mixstep.co/7nw0jmuw37hn

  • Black Smallbeard

    i think i hit a preacher curl PR to this track

  • Xinen

    Well written dude, I’ve been looking forward to checking this out when it releases.

  • Kyle Reese

    non bandcamp material and completely rockin’. would like some more variance on the vocals but the instruments kill.