By Thrash-head

It seems unreal that the mindblowingly brilliant "Paradogma" came out two years ago. That disc was one of those albums that if you were truly in the frame of mind for unrelenting brutality, you could easily listen tens times straight. Since that album has come out the band has undergone a few lineup changes, both of which were notable enough to cause a small amount of worry with those in the know. For starters, longtime drummer and last remaining original member Mauro Mercurio left the band for whatever reason, and vocalist Francesco Paoli left the band to focus his attention on current hot project of the moment, Fleshgod Apocalypse.

This new disc is so good, but it should come with a disclaimer about the number of times you'll need to listen to it to fully grasp it. The first listen immediately discounts any fears one might have had regarding if this disc would stack up to the monumental previous two releases, "Vile Conception" and the aforementioned "Paradogma." I mean, if you like your death metal to be a brutal sinister/semi-evil brick-in-the-face a la Behemoth, older Hate Eternal, Harm, Zyklon, Immolation's last EP and the like, then you need to hear Hour of Penance if you haven't. By the time the third listen ends, you've begun to start grasping the actual melodies of the tracks...and by melodies I in no way mean this is weak stuff; rather, I am referring the ear-catching quality of the massive death riffs and blast-beat interplay, not to mention the growled vocals over the top. As you're making your way through listen number five, you begin to notice the "subtle" things - if anything here can be called subtle. You'll find yourself waiting for the bass-drop in "The Cannibal Gods," on the sixth listen, and if you're a musician you'll begin to start picking apart guitarist Giulio Moschini's lead phrasing, which really is a very ear-pleasing mix of Erik Rutan and Nergal. You'll maybe notice how Paolo Pieri's voice is so powerful as he roars (and that is the only apt way to describe the way this variety of death growlers belt out their vocals) the title phrase to "Sedition Through Scorn," and how amazingly the drum fill at 1:12 in "Deprave to Redeem" seems to transition the skank-beat into the next blast.

 After near 20 listens to this disc, I am still finding the occasional surprise, and I'm still nowhere close to being bored. I figure another 10 listens and I'll dub this the greatest death metal record I have ever heard. Simply put, if you are a fan of brutality, you need to check this out.