PENANCE (Spiritualnatural) CD
Due to the reason that Cosmiclava was inactive for nearly half a year (from late '03 - early '04), I received my promo (thanks Brian!) later than other webzines/magazines, but one can write a review about an outstanding album at every time. Released in 2003 on Martyr Music Group, PENANCE' been natural developing over the past years, without losing their roots and stretched the limitations of its art on the new album. While their earlier works like "The Road Less Travelled" was more embittered and darker, "Spiritualnatural" still echoing the loneliness of the weary traveller, but to keep this metaphor, the traveller accepts his inner worlds and finds his peace of mind in the final track "Starshine/Dawn Of A New Day". Beauty and pain comes hand in hand and the circle closes. Like the first half of the previous album "Alpha & Omega" had shown, PENANCE went two steps forward with the stylistic extension of their sound, and their approach to doom-laden heaviness is demanding and sincere. With the two instrumental cuts "The River Ara" and "Iron Curtain Blues" the group had explored new musical ground for the group's relation, and the hidden track is a proof their taste for humour.
Brian Balich vocals are reaching a degree of intensity and emotion that is overwhelming, and although I dig his vocals on previous releases here he had done his best work until now. With impressive tracks like "Longsuffering", "Regret" or "Spiritualnatural" (with additional guest appearance of Kelly Carmichael from Internal Void) this is a spirited and diverse release. I could add the uplifting rocker "Casting Long Shadows" or the opener "Gemini" with bluesy acoustic guitar parts to the list, so that in the end the complete album is a blast (and it is!). The guitar work is excellent and the style of lead guitarist Matt Tuite is very much in evidence. With top-notch playing of new rhythm guitarist Dave Roman (who replaced Terry Weston which is featured on some of the here included tracks), bass player Mary Bielich and of course Mr. Mike Smail (also member of Internal Void & Pentagram), one of the most talented drummers in the heavy music scene, the album reveals the band's masterful and unbroken status as one of the legendary heavy-weights. "Spiritualnatural" is a superior work in all facets; playing, sound quality and choice of material.