In my year end list for this site, the two albums I put on my “Please Don’t Disappoint in 2017” list were Analepsy (the first glimpses of that one sound incredible), and Hour of Penance. I have been a big fan of Hour of Penance since The Vile Conception and the two LPs following that one, but their last one, Regicide, was just missing that “it” factor of their previous outputs and seemed like a band that wasn’t quite sure what they wanted to do.
Well fast forward to now, and Cast the First Stone has for me been one of the first really good death metal albums of the year. This one has the feeling of a band that has all systems dialed in, and comes across as a very “mature” album. During the middle part of their catalog HOP were known as one of the land-speed record-setting death metal bands, and they were easily one of the best at it. But at this point they’ve got fuck all to prove to anybody in that realm, with this album demonstrating much more of an emphasis on groove, a little orchestration and incredibly strong songwriting while still showing they’ve got the chops to hang with anybody in the business.
The first track “XXI Century Imperial Crusade” actually had me quite worried on first listen, as it’s an average track and didn’t inspire a ton of confidence right out of the gate. But then the title track comes next, and the aforementioned groove is on full display here, and it’s a glorious thing. The interplay between the dual guitars is handled beautifully on this one, and continues with track standouts “Iron Fist” and phenomenal closer “Damnatio Memoriae”. Again you do get the speed mixed in throughout, handled awesomely by drummer Davide “BrutalDave” Billia (whose past bands read like a who’s who in the brutal death metal realm: Putridity, Antropofagus, Beheaded, Septcycal Gorge). Paolo Pieri is back on vocals for the fourth album in a row, and while they aren’t the highlight here, they more than get the job done.
Overall this is just a really great album. I had to pump the bass just a bit on this one, but the production on the whole is very solid with each instrument able to make its presence known. Hour of Penance has been honing their craft for over 15 years, and it shows here. Definitely an album to check out, and the first album of the year to add to my ‘must buy’ list.[Visit the band's website]