Hour Of Penance: Incontrovertible Doctrines
Italy has a healthy metal scene, but it isn’t known as the land of brutality and death – at least when it comes to music. Beneath the layers of heavy alternative and gothic rock however, are a group of metal bands intent on showing the world that Italians can handle the art of extreme shredding as expertly as their brethren across the continent. Hour Of Penance stand at the forefront of the movement, spreading their socially conscious and vehemently anti-religious message through spine-shattering technical death metal. This is as brutal as it gets, and soon, it will be coming to Australia with Behemoth. BLUNT gets extreme with bassist Giulio Moschini.
Hour Of Penance has been around for a long time, but this is your first tour of Australia. Since you’re newcomers to our country, can you give us a brief history of the band?
Hour Of Penance moved their first steps in 1999 but it wasn’t until 2003 that the first album Disturbance was released worldwide and the band started playing outside Italy. We’ve definitely faced more problems than other bands in getting the band known; the internet wasn’t that big in those days and nobody was really expecting a death metal band coming from Italy. 2005 saw the release of our second album Pageantry For Martyrs, after a lot of shows and festivals played in Europe. In 2008 The Vile Conception came out, which was released by Unique Leader records and finally put the band on the map. The album was a big success and our fanbase became stronger and stronger, so far it is still considered by our fans to be “THE Hour Of Penance album”, it’s when we finally started touring intensively. Since then we’ve signed a deal with Prosthetic Records, who released our fifth album last year Sedition, and we managed to get the band across the ocean and tour the US twice, the first time with The Black Dahlia Murder and Nile and the second time with our number one inspiration Cannibal Corpse, then another big tour followed in Europe with Cannibal Corpse and DevilDriver. So far this year the band has played more than 150 shows!
Italy, your home country, isn’t really known for extreme death metal, how did the band discover it?
We discovered this music in different ways. I started listening to it because I saw on cable TV a video of Sepultura’s “Territory”. I was 10 or something, and my American cousin who came every summer to Italy started lending me some death metal CDs. I always looked for something more extreme until I found bands like Cannibal Corpse and the “old” good Morbid Angel, they’re definitely the bands that influenced us the most. We always tried to find our “way” to play this kind of music and we developed our ideas album by album even by listening to our music you can still ear something that recalls our influences.
The themes you explore are also very dark and confrontational. What draws your interest in these themes? Italy also has an amazing history but it’s also one that’s filled with examples of extreme human behaviour.
We always tried to have a personal approach on the lyrics, we’re not really into the occult and stuff like that because we are atheists we don’t believe in any ghosts or gods, so it would not make any sense to be yet another “satanic” death metal band. I think that by being Italian and living here in Rome, the home of the Vatican, most of the inspiration for the lyrics just comes spontaneously. The new album’s lyrics are just our point of view on the relationship between the Vatican and Italy, which affects our way of living and our society in a negative way.
What messages do you want people to take away from your music?
We’re trying to help people open their eyes and realise the real situation. With the Italians it is a lost battle unfortunately since we’re constantly brainwashed by the Vatican through our national medias.
Do you feel like outsiders in your country’s metal scene, given that what you do is quite different?
We definitely feel like outsiders since this country is most known for exporting power metal bands like Rhapsody or Lacuna Coil just to mention a few. Death metal here doesn’t have any weight unfortunately and the shows are often organised in shit holes with poor turnouts. The Vatican and the priests of course play a big role, from time to time we also get some shows cancelled because death metal is seen as a “satanic” movement. Actually, you just need a black shirt and some long hair to be labelled a satanist here. While this was proclaimed as a laic country, the Vatican definitely has a big influence on our politicians’ choices and on the Italian society. This year while we didn’t have a government because the elections failed to nominate a new president, people here cared more about the new Pope than looking at the real problems of this country. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited Rome (you should if you haven’t, this city kicks arse) there’s a church pretty much every two buildings; the Vatican owns a lot of large property here without paying taxes. You can breathe their power in every corner of the city.
We’ve never faced resistance though; there’s a lot of ignorance about this music. Sometimes in talk shows and stuff like that where they invite priests to talk they always talk about Marilyn Manson as a death metal or black metal band, just to make an example.
Your music is incredibly extreme and unrelenting. How do you sustain that when you’re playing live, it must be exhausting!
We practice every day as much as we can in order to keep up with the live performance. For our drummer I must admit that at some point it gets physical too, if you’re having a bad day or if you’re out of shape (which is something that could happen easily while on tour) it’s really hard! We’re constantly investing in new gear in order to give our fans the best live experience we can. Technology nowadays can be really helpful with that.
It’s been around 18 months since your last album Sedition, are you working on any new material?
We’ve actually just finished the songwriting for the new album! James [Payne] will start tracking the drums at our bass player’s studio here in Rome before the tour in Australia and we’ll finish everything by November hopefully, we’re aiming for a release in the first quarter of 2014, so we’ll keep the tradition of releasing an album every two years. This time we really worked hard. At the moment we have 15 songs; it’s so hard to pick the best 10 because they all sound very good. We changed the way we work this time, we’ve been able to set up a small recording studio and do the pre-production with a real drum kit recorded by James, so a lot of parts this time were written by a drummer not by myself. This will be also the first time Paolo [Pieri] takes care of all the lyrics alone, so there’s definitely a lot more participation in the songwriting from the other band members this time. We’re proud of this material; it will be a step forward for Hour Of Penance’s career for sure.
Your tour’s just about to kick off! Did you ever expect to make it down to our country? ?
We were trying to get the band in Australia sooner or later, we were waiting for a good chance and this was definitely the right one! Our management is based in Australia and we have to thank them for this, they’ve worked hard to make this happen!
And finally, how does it feel to be touring with the mighty Behemoth?
It feels great! I first saw the band when they played here in Rome when they were promoting Satanica back in 2002 or something and I really respect them for their music and dedication, they’re definitely a source of inspiration for everyone here in this band.
Catch Hour Of Penance when they tour here for the first time with Behemoth!
Behemoth / Hour Of Penance Tour Dates
Thu Oct 24th – Capitol, Perth (18+)
With Advent Sorrow
Fri Oct 25th – Prince Bandroom, Melbourne (18+)
With Cemetery Urn
Sat Oct 26th – Manning Bar, Sydney (18+)
Sun Oct 27th – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (18+)
With Eternal Rest