Alpha and Omega (Martyr)
by Martin Popoff
I never would’ve thought it possible, but Penance have stared down a hundred bands that’ve crafted doom since the band’s ascendance with ’94’s pioneering Parallel Corners opus, and created a record that is defiantly, incredibly top-flight Sabbatherian metal that oddly bears little similarity to its many competitors. Recording only sporadically, and remaining more low-key than underground, Penance have made their isolation work for them, finding ancient riffs made of stone, bone and howling wind, recording these fragments with a production heft that truly strikes at the core of what made Trouble such an important band. Alpha & Omega, however, combines two batches of music with different pedigrees. The back half is a little spacier and sonically drier (although not much; you probably wouldn’t notice had it not been documented), comprising four songs from the self-released Turn For the Worse mini, two tracks of which (“Love Dies” and “Misery Song”) stand up heartily to the scary quality levels of the front five. And man, what a collection. Opener “Wizards Of Mind” just packs a sorrowful and harmonizing punch, Butch Balich turning in a shuddering doom vocal that digs graves at midnight. Into “New Machine,” and Penance gives a clinic on how to make slow interesting (clue: Make the guitars howl). Dig deeper in and a variety of stomping black rock styles shove and grunt for position, all adding to a heartening variety and sequence that punches the peaks and has you bad trippin’ through the valleys. All told, reassuring and wise doom metal that sounds like it’s created by 55-year-old contemporaries of the masters.
(PO Box 42323 Pittsburgh, PA 15203)