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Proving Ground

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Album Review

Penance's third album, 1999's Proving Ground, was their first in five years and kicked off a very productive, far more stable new phase in the band's thus-far troubled career. It also marked the recording debut of new vocalist Brian Bailich (who'd already been singing with the band for almost two years), and his confident combination of melody and muscle brought a new versatility to help expand the scope of the band's mid-paced doom metal songwriting. The opening title track already hints at this, but it's with second song, "Cloudless," that the Pittsburgh doomsters' really hit their stride, locking into a rolling, surging power riff that quickly tattoos itself into the senses, and rarely relinquished itself thereafter. As with any true doom band, Black Sabbath is the overpowering touchstone, but glimpses of British doom masters Cathedral and California titans Saint Vitus also pepper the likes of "Transcending," "Cast in Grey," and "Slipping" — all of which regularly showcase excellent solos in the Iommi/Wino vein from Terry Weston. Traces of the legendary Vitus/the Obsessed/Spirit Caravan leader can also be heard in Bailich's more tortured tones, and drummer extraordinaire Mike Smail also reaffirms his considerable reputation with a powerful show of force behind the kit. Even more significantly, Penance's collective performance on additional highlights such as "Dead Already" and the unusually groove-intensive "Never Lost" clearly signals their arrival as contenders with a distinctive voice.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Doom metal rockers Penance got their start in 1990, when the freshly formed group released their first underground demo. It floated around tape-trading circles until the members of Cathedral finally heard it. They were so impressed that they asked Mike Smail, the only permanent member of the group, to play the drums on their first album. Penance stayed together and put together their debut, The Road Less Traveled, on Cathedral frontman Lee Dorrian's Rise Above Records in 1992. They created a buzz...
Full Bio
Proving Ground, Penance
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  • $18.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: 20 August 2002

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