Sedition is like that scene in The Exorcist where a possessed Linda Blair projectile vomits onto a priest. Blasphemous and brutal, it's as in-your-face as death metal gets. More importantly, it marks Hour of Penance's most calculated assault on the senses yet.
The Roman quartet first rose to prominence with 2003's Disturbance. Aptly named, it set a standard of relentless extremity the band's boasted ever since. Few musicians in any genre play as fast as Hour of Penance, and those that can often lack their unyielding stamina.
Sedition proves that righteous fury fuels the band's fire. The latest target of their aural violence is the Vatican, and Hour of Penance unloads with an album so blistering it borders on nuclear. Breathers are nearly nonexistent, and the tempo teeters between breaking the sound barrier and wrecking warp speed. Clearly, this is a band whose blood boils over Inquisitions, Crusades and priest molestation scandals.
Anti-religious or not, Sedition is an album that grinds down even the staunchest resistance. "Transubstantiato" is its sole moment of tranquility, fusing ominous rumbles with somber Gregorian chant. When "Enlightened Submission" thus takes center stage, it dispels any harmony with the subtlety of falling bombs. Fusing majestic guitars and furious percussion, it conquers eardrums by making even its melodies crushing.
"Decimate the Ancestry of the Only God" goes even further, taking Sedition to the next level with pulverizing hyperactivity. A death metal whirlwind, it melds blinding speed with robotic precision. The end result is a sonic firestorm, and one that's broken by brief flashes of harmony that flicker like lightning.
"Fall of the Servants," meanwhile, starts with a tidal wave of drums then whips up a maelstrom of blastbeat percussion and guitar riffs as rough as sand paper. It all leads into "Ascension," a raucous standout among the album's strongest songs. Starting with eerie strings straight out of horror cinema, it next unleashes stomping guitars and thunderous drums. Behind it all roar gang vocals, a choir of the damned that boosts the chorus from great to grandiose.
"The Cannibal Gods" next injects brief, insidious melodies into the mix for some sinister atmosphere. Epic and somber, they give the otherwise frenzied death metal gravitas.
"Sedition through Scorn," for its part, delivers the record's catchiest but most caustic songwriting. Inhuman rhythms stampede wildly forward, only to drop off into earth-rattling refrains. If there's any doubt it's the CD's most dominant tune, the stabbing guitar harmonies at song's end seal the deal.
"Deprave to Redeem" is a close second, swinging for the fences with boundless aggression. If the contest is hammering grooves, it's definitely a home run. As if mocking its predecessors, "Blind Obedience" batters with seismic bass smacks and unbridled fury on the skins. Devoid of subtlety, it ends a satisfying audio smackdown.
The exhausted silence that follows leaves listeners wondering if Sedition could sustain the same pace much longer. Such is its ferocity that going further seems impossible.
Hour of Penance have pushed music's limits and in the process dropped one of 2012's most devastating records. For death metal fans in dire need of breaking boundaries, Sedition is the answer to their prayers.
Decimate the Ancestry of the Only God
Fall of the Servants
The Cannibal Gods
Sedition through Scorn
Deprave to Redeem
Check 'em out at http://www.myspace.com/hourofpenance/music
Mark Hensch is the editor of Thrashpit. His writing also appears on his Heavy Metal Hensch blog at The Washington Times.