Paths of Possession had honestly come a long way since their debut, the lacking Legacy of Ashes in 2002. Though The End of the Hour is not quite a rousing success, it exhibits several developments over its predecessors. In fact, its the closest I've come to actually enjoying one of their albums, with stronger songwriting and pretty intense production values. The guitar tone in particular is just mighty here, especially as the band use so many simple chugging, thrashing rhythms that border on Pantera grooves that it becomes essential in order for them to retain their effectiveness. The bass is well mixed, curvaceous and pummeling along with the drums, and George Fisher does a hell of a better job than he did on Promises in Blood.
That said, there are a lot of 'basic' elements here that come off as less than exciting. Some of the melodic riffs have a very Maiden feel to them, predictable and generic to the point that they don't really add anything to the muscular rhythmic substrate. Tracks where they have George flexing his chops often feel as they're overbearing. The guy has a nice, narrative sneer that he'll often alternate with his Corpse-grunts (as in "Engulfing the Pure"), but it does come tend to come off more hokey than serious, and that's not really something you want on a concept album about the evolution of some genocidal maniac. Also, for all the solid, melodic hooks that are woven through tunes like "Poisoned Promised Land" or "The End of The Hour" itself, there are quite a few that feel nothing more than empty filler. Thankfully, the thick guitars are such that even the more boring moments can cause the imagination to rock out for a measure or too, but they don't exactly leave an imprint on the memory.
There's a closing, untitled track here which is actually called "Soulless" and was a cover of one of the members' former bands (Cancerslug). I've never heard of them, but the song instantly feels peppier and more fun, like a bunch of groovy ghouls rocking out some death/thrash one night at the local sepulcher. There's enough depth to this one that I almost wish they had just had Cancerslug write all of the Paths of Possession material, because it was at least fun. The bold production, the slight increase in songwriting quality and Fisher's better grasp of his position are just not enough to cross the margin into a solid recommendation, but if you're intent on checking out any of the PoP material, start with this, even if the lyrics and concept are nowhere near what the band probably hoped they'd be.
Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10]