"Parallel Corners" (Century Media/Magic Arts; 1994)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

"Parallel Corners" is the sophomore effort from Pennsylvania's Penance and their first recorded effort for Century Media.

The music is basically fuzzy Black Sabbath-like dirges (overwhelmingly so) with speedy riffs inserted for good measure. Blatant Danzig overtones and pentatonic blues make frequent appearances. The Danzig references on "Parallel Corners" makes sense as 1994 was the height of Danzig's popularity which was when this disc was recorded and released.  Surprisingly, the bluesy leads (often they work, but sometimes they don't ) only add a generic, familiar dimension to the music. Also, stylistic elements of Cathedral can also be heard throughout.

The lyrics are introspective yet lack a spirited delivery. The vocals are a bit flat and buried in the mix; the words themselves are lost in the sea of contorted guitar sounds.

"Words Not Deeds" takes turns alternating between doomy sustained chord and rapid-fire linear single note runs. The very gothic, dirge-like "Born To Suffer" recalls the best of English metal often careening too close to the classic Black Sabbath sound. "Words To Live By" is a moderate paced rocker with a more blues-based structure and meandering pentatonic lead guitar. "Destroyed By One" is eerily quiet and moody with great impact before exploding into the charging "Crosses." The track "Visions" includes a bit of psychedelic and blues elements for variety's sake. The strange "Monster I've Become" closes out the disc with an ode to self-despair.

The best song is "Reflections" which starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar, subtle drums and handclaps, and hushed vocals before bursting into a frenzied blast of distorted guitars, then returning to a melodic interlude, before finally returning to the frenzied distorted guitars with more decent guitar solos. "Reflections" seems to pack the band's vision into a near epic eight plus minutes.

Overall the long songs get a bit tiresome, but the different sound of Penance makes the band a worthy listen. The most remarkable thing about "Parallel Corners" is that the disc indicates how willing the Century Media label was in taking risks and chances on bands that would otherwise not get a recording contract. Although Penance were unable to take this experience to the next level, "Parallel Corners" provides a nice glimpse into the variety of music that was available at the time.

The band is Tom Weston on guitar, Frank Miller on bass, Lee Smith on vocals, and Mike Smail on drums. Weston and Smail are the main songwriters and Smail is the chief lyricist.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 28 Aug 2022 15:32:20 -0400 .