I have always been told to try new things. It is that whole premise of “You can’t say you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it.” I have always avoided death metal in the past but I have never had a valid reason for not wanting to listen to it. The closest I got to listening to death metal was a brief Amon Amarth stint before giving up and going to listen to 36 Crazy Fists. When I received the advance for Hour of Penance’s new album Regicide, I listened to it without reading the press release. That came as a bit of a surprise as I had really only been listening to the post-hardcore bands that come from Prosthetic Records. I was lulled into a false sense of security by my own ignorance. Suffice to say, I got a pretty big scare but I also discovered that I actually do like death metal.
With a title like Regicide, you’d expect the album to be fairly brutal. Regicide literally means the deliberate killing of a monarch. I don’t want to attempt to expand too much on what the album title could possibly mean. Considering that the band is from Italy, the home to the Vatican City, it could be a stab at the Roman Catholic Church, or Christianity in general. The band is well known for being rather blasphemous in their songwriting. The title aptly sets the tone for the album. That being, if brutality had a second cousin, it would be Hour of Penance. Guitarist/vocalist Paolo Pieri said this about Regicide: “[Regicide] revolves around the themes of destruction and rebirth and the killing of the king — be he your own fears, prejudices or dogmas that you build inside yourself to cope with reality. Only by letting go of those illusions and tearing down the walls of ignorance and fear that society, religion and every form of dysfunctional authority you interjected during your life, can you start to rebuild your own path as a free man that has no need for a king.”
Regicide is opened by the triumphant “Through the Triumphal Arch”, which is a fanfare of what is to come. The album breaks down into aural devastation from there on. The band lays down “Reforging the Crowns” and then proceeds to tear their way through your aural sense as they progress through the album. There is no respite from the overwhelming sense of brutality as these Italian metalers rip through your eardrums much like Romeo would have ripped through Juliet’s hymen if Shakespeare gave him the chance to. (Pardon the crude description, but it is the only way to describe how my ears feel.)
Each song is heavier than the next and eventually you’re being hit by a cascade of blast beats and thundering guitar riffs. Pieri’s vocals are harsh, to say the least, as he spews rampant blasphemy and a message over not letting anything control you. Giulio Moschini provides equally harsh backing vocals. Once the closing track “Theogony” finishes, you’re left lost and confused as this devastating journey ends. What you didn’t realise is that you’d just been exposed to a harrowing tale of mankind’s own devastation and destruction and how our inhumanity has corrupted us.
Hour of Penance had already established themselves as a formidable name with death metal with their previous albums. Regicide goes on to further greaten their name as they immerse you in an aural journey that shall leave you wanting more and pondering your own humanity. You know that an album has achieved its desired result when it converts a previous non-death metal fan into a death metal fan. I am slowly but surely joining the dark side, and I really do hope they have cookies.