|Readers of my previous review of Penance' 1999 effort, 'Proving Ground' will remember my great enthusiasm for that colossus of riffing doom. Frankly, I wondered if Penance could ever equal what I considered at the time to be their best album, or if it was all downhill from there. |
Wisely, and perhaps realizing that there was no point in trying to match the matchless, Penance have decided to forge on from heights of 'Proving Ground'. 'Alpha & Omega' shows them in transition from the classic doom sound of past years into something a bit lighter and more groove-oriented. In fact, 'Alpha & Omega' is really two discs in one; the first five songs represent where they're going and the last four (the 'Turn for the Worse' EP) sum up where they've been.
Bolstered by newcomers Mary Bielich (ex-Novembers Doom) on bass and Matt Tuite (ex-Wickerman) on guitar, Penance show that they are capable of growth without forgetting their old-school roots. The first tune, 'Wizards of Mind,' kicks it hard in a stonier fashion than we're used to from them. But don't worry, Penance are not about muscle cars and bongs, as worthwhile as those pursuits may be, its just that they refuse to be stuck in a rut, even a "good' one. 'New Machine' features a bottom-heavy stoney groove with whispered background vocals, and 'See the Light' shows that The Doom has not been left behind, but can be effectively used to showcase the cleanest vocals yet from frontman Brian "Butch" Balich. The last four tunes, including the chugging, doomy 'Love Dies' and the angry 'Cold' show the 'Proving Ground' era band at its best-heavy, doomed, and old school to the teeth.
The songwriting on 'Alpha & Omega' continues the collaborative spirit of previous albums with contributions by founding members Mike Smail and Terry Weston, as well as Balich and newcomer Tuite. The sound is clear, wide-open, spectacular. The lyrics, as on 'Proving Ground', are personal, honest, and confessional, dealing with hate, love, death and loss with a rawness that most doom bands can only aspire to. Penance shows that there is not only life, but also innovation in the old school. Recommended.
1. Wiards of Mind
2. New Machine
3. See the Light
5. Eden Fallen
6. Love Dies
8. Drown Me.
9. Misery Song
[note by author: The last 4 songs on the album were originally released as a fans-only CDR EP entitled 'Turn for the Worse'.]
Duration : Approx. 54 minutes.
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