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Penance : Proving Ground

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA) is hardly a walk down the block from the suburban Washington D.C./Maryland area, but you wouldn't know it as far as hometown doomsters Penance are concerned. Because with 'Proving Ground', Penance easily stands shoulder to shoulder with classic doom giants like Spirit Caravan and Earthride. Combining bottom-heavy riffage with rock and metal elements, Penance has forged a unique brand of classic doom of incredible power.

The history of Penance goes back to the 1980s and the band Dream Death, which rose out of the local thrash scene. Guitarist Terry Weston and drummer Mike Smail then formed the more 'Sabbathy Penance, and are members to this day. 'Proving Ground' is the 3rd Penance album, and with the addition of vocalist "Butch" Balich they really hit their stride. Songwriting and lyric duties are spread among Weston, Smail, and Balich, and all three combine efforts to produce a seamless album. Penance doesn't seem to be about big egos, it is rather creating a successful whole. The lyrics are strong, passionate, and almost psychotherapeutic in their confessional honesty. The subjects include depression and alienation, but - gasp! - there are moments when the sun comes out too, and it feels pretty damned good! So if you think doom is all about strong feelings, then go no further: you've arrived. But it's the songwriting that really shines here. 'Cloudless' contains a descending guitar riff of almost unbelievable power; it would be the centerpiece of any album by most doomsters, but here its just one brilliant tune among many. 'Proving Ground', 'Pain', 'Circle #9', hell, there are memorable tunes all over this album. 'Bleed You' is the only song that seems a bit out of place, sounding kind of punk to these ears.

This is one of the most consistently good albums I've heard in the world of riffing doom, and for that reason I believe it stands out as a genre classic. Their new album, 'Alpha & Omega', has two new recruits, Mary Bielich and Matt Tuite. If it can stand up to 'Proving Ground' then Penance may at long last get the recognition they deserve.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Proving Ground
2. Cloudless
3. Transcending
4. Dead Already
5. Bitter
6. Pain
7. Never Lost
8. Cast in Grey
9. Bleed You
10. Circle #9
11. Slipping

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes.

Visit the Penance bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Kevin McHugh
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