By Dr. Abner Mality
The Crusades between East and West, between Christianity and Islam, have never really stopped. They grind on today and have turned the Middle East, the Cradle of Civilization, into a hellhole of never-ending war. The conflict has spilled over into our once “safe’ cities and now no one seems to be immune. The war marches on into a new millennium, all in the name of God.
Italy’s death masters Hour of Penance understand the senseless nature of the conflict and have captured it on their new album “Cast The First Stone”. This sucker sounds like a millennium-long war converted into blazing riffs and roaring vocals. It is war personified!
The battle eased long enough for me to speak to two members of the band, Giulio Moschini and Paolo Pierini, and get their thoughts on faith, fear and folly. They had quite a bit to say and those who label death metal as ignorant noise are really demonstrating their own lack of understanding.
So put your armor on, the Hour of Penance is tolling…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings from Wormwood! Your new album “Cast The First Stone” is the most compact and focused Hour of Penance album yet. The songs and the album are stripped and to the point. Was this your intention all along or did it just “turn out” that way?
GIULIO MOSCHINI : HI , and thank you for having us. It turned out that way – it’s probably due to the fact that we’re not listening much to the other bands out there , the trend nowadays is to put as many riffs as you can inside a song , that happens especially with some more “modern” death metal bands . We opted ( unintentionally ) for a different solution – more quality, less quantity.
WC: The record has a very military and war-like sound. Do you think war is on the horizon for mankind? Certainly things seem to be tense and divided these days.
PAOLO PIERINI – War is already here, we got Libya civil war going on since 2011 not far from our coasts and hundreds of thousand refugees from Syria are fleeing in Europe. We’re not fighting a war inside our nation but we’re all seeing the consequences of what is going on around us and so far we cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel.
WC: The album title “Cast The First Stone” comes from the Christian bible. Can you explain how it works in context of the album?
PP – We wanted to use this title because in the conflict between west and east everyone feels justified to use violence because the other one “cast the first stone”. This kind of reasoning will just bring more violence and we wanted to describe the possible consequences of it all.
WC: Is the whole album inspired by The Crusades and the continuing tension between East and West?
PP – Yes, but it also talks about the conflict between reason and religion. Reason has given the western culture the chance to emancipate itself from dogmas and impositions of the Christian church, while some Islamic countries have strongly radicalized in the last 30 years due to the wrong military choices of the other factions involved . They meddled in the middle-east area without any thought to the consequences of their actions on the long run and now we all pay the price of their plots.
WC: The first song is “XXI Century Imperial Crusade”. Is it the Crusade of Christianity, of Islam or is the Crusade of those who profit from war?
PP – It is a description of what could happen if things between west and east escalate. Everyone will forget reason,...blinded by rage we’ll start thinking as crusaders like ISIS is doing and it will become a war between our vision of the world and the religious dogmas of middle-east cultures. Everyone will see the other as an infidel and we’ll be back to the middle age kind of thinking.
WC: Do you think the average metal fan will understand where you are coming from lyrically or will they just enjoy the brutal sounds and imagery of war?
PP – I try to write lyrics that intertwine with the music and bring the listeners into the mood of the album. I try to use words or images that stimulate the senses: the smell, the sound, the sight, but I also want to make people understand the message of how brutal and horrible war is.
WC: Do you see any conclusion or any way out of the battle between religions?
PP – Not right now, we’ve come to a point where Islamic fundamentalism has taken strong roots in many areas of the world. We could easily crush them with a direct military intervention, but the real problem is their ideology and their fanaticism. You cannot destroy ideas, and they tend to spread where there is poverty and ignorance. It will take decades to stop terrorism and right now I’m not sure we will find a way to do it.
GM: Gyula Havancsak is the man behind it , we’re working with him since “Paradogma” and he did a great job once again. We were inspired by a Gustav Dòre painting , a battle during the crusades , can’t recall the name right now – we wanted to show a battle where no one is winning. That’s why death is above both the factions in the artwork. We wanted the artwork to be tied with the title and the lyrics of the album and I think Gyula definitely captured the mood and the meaning of it.
WC: The last song of the album is “Damnatio Memoriae”, which I believe means “Memorial of the Damned”. What is this song about?
PP – It was a roman law used against the ones who did outrageous actions against the Republic. Their names were erased from chronicles and monuments until it was forgotten forever. In this song I write about a Damnatio Memoriae issued against the only god, so that people will finally forget the notion of it and be free from every institution who uses the name of God to justify their behavior and control the masses.
WC: The Italian death metal scene seems to be at an all time high, would you agree?
GM: Yes , that’s kinda true , there are a lot of great bands , too bad we’re a bit too late to the party and for some of them it’s very hard to get known outside Italy. There are too many bands out there putting out records and internet which is basically the only way to promote your band nowadays. The scene is saturated.
WC: What are some of the other Italian bands we should keep an eye on?
GM– I really like Ade , a very good band from Rome. They put out a record last year that you should definitely check out. Then Devangelic, if you’re into more Disgorgesque brutal death metal .
WC: Are there any plans to play here in the US?
GM – None at the moment , but we’d love to come back sometime this year , we’ve just waiting to find a good tour.
WC: Any bands you would like to tour or collaborate with?
GM: We’ve been pretty lucky so far touring with some of the bands we’ve grew up listening to like Cannibal Corpse , Nile , Deicide , Behemoth. There are two bands that I’d like to tour with missing on my list ... one is Hate Eternal , the other one is Morbid Angel , I’m really looking forward to see them back with Steve Tucker.
WC: Are you or any of the other HOP members involved in other projects?
GM – I play as bassist in a black-thrash metal band named Grimness , we’re working on some new material at the moment after a looong hiatus. I have another band with Marco our bass player and 3 other great musicians , we’ve almost finished recording a demo , soon it will be out. Marco plays also with a great Grind band called Buffalo Grillz , they have a new album out called “Martin Burger King” that’s very good . Davide our drummer plays with Beheaded and Antropofagus .
WC: If you could have dinner with any 3 people from history, who would they be?
PP: The first one would be Dostoevsky, he’s my favorite writer and I’d love to know him. Being a musician, another one I really wanted to know is Beethoven even if he was a bit of a weirdo. I’m not sure about the last one, but I think Napoleon must have been an interesting character to spend some time with.
WC: What was the last release you listened to just because you wanted to hear the band?
GM: Schammasch from our label Prosthetic Records , I’ve bought their last album “Triangle” , a great record and a killer package – I’d definitely recommend it, a strong black metal release.
WC: Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went crazy that you could tell us about?
GM: Like every other band we like to party hard sometimes..maybe a little too hard.Unfortunately I can’t say much because that would involve naming names and I could easily embarrass a lot of people !
WC: Last words or thoughts for the fans?
GM– Sure , check out the new album “Cast The First Stone” , it’s online on Spotify right now although I really recommend to get the vinyl.. the artwork looks just great on it!