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Pestilence had a few significant contributions to the death genre in the late '80s and early '90s.
It seems unlikely that even adventurous music fans who worship at the altar of prog-tastic death acts like Cynic, Cryptopsy, Obscura or latter-day Death will be capable of tolerating Mameli’s horrific bleating or finding this hodge-podge of styles enjoyable. If you like offbeat odds and sods, explore with caution. I’ll stick with their classic albums and their previous non-Primus-ized platter. If you have a neighbor you really dislike, go away for a day or two while leaving this playing loudly on repeat. Mameli will personally see to it that they suffer grievously.
Absolution progresses from a restrained drum beat from Yuma Van Eekelen and sludgy guitars to popping bass to powerful guitar leads to even darker tones to a synthesis of slow, evil guitars, double bass kicks, and throaty vocals. On Divinity, Jeroen Paul Thesseling’s bass is refreshingly prominent, sounding like the thunder before the lightning of Patrick Uterwijk and Mameli’s melodic leads and grinding riffs of Malignant. Pestilence get jazzy at the opening of Confusion, then segues to a hardcore punk beat and screamed vocals, melodic solos, and whirlwind rhythm changes.
Doctrine is disappointing in all aspects as the album is a poor slab of half-written riffs and hooks thrown together. Mameli should end Pestilence quietly at this time so he doesn’t tarnish the history of the band further.
Perhaps it is because I was first introduced to Pestilence through their most ambitious and excellent record 'Spheres', but everything I have heard from this Dutch death metal band since has underwhelmed and disappointed me. Ironically enough, 'Spheres' was also the album that effectively killed Pestilence for the better part of two decades; the fans generally disapproved of the more jazz-based direction they were headed in, and the commercial flop cost the band its livelihood. The band only recovered from their discouragement recently, releasing the comeback album 'Resurrection Macabre' in 2009. Sadly though, it sounds like the scars of 'Spheres' rejection are still bleeding. Even on Pestilence's latest record 'Doctrine', it is evident that the band has now cornered themselves in a fairly generic and tame death metal sound. Perhaps in an effort to appease their fans and prevent a repeat, Pestilence has become a band that is afraid to stand out.
Based on a somewhat long-winded intro track of a man chanting in Latin, the artwork and album's title, one might get the implication that this is some sort of concept piece about Christianity. Mind you, even that might be reading into what 'Doctrine' has to offer a little too much. Barring the unnecessary dialogue piece, each of these tracks is a self-contained expression of mediocrity. Of the ten death metal tracks here, there is not one that stands out. Pestilence are reborn as a bland technical death metal act, although many of the guitar riffs here lack complexity. The guitar parts are rarely melodic, yet too predictable and cold to be considered heavy or exciting. At moments where there is a clear opportunity for Pestilence to do something really great, they shirk back and go for something expected, another few measures of chugging riffs, perhaps? To band mastermind Patrick Mameli's credit though, his guitar solos sound fantastic, essentially playing jazz in a metal setting. This slight fusion is only evident in the all-too scarce leads on 'Doctrine' though. The rest only seeks to underwhelm.
The vocals of Mameli have not necessarily deteriorated all that much from the band's heyday, but there is far too much of a focus on his growls here. Besides that they are mixed too highly, the guitars seem to roast on the backburner quite a bit of the time while the Schuldiner-esque vocals rasp away. The problem here is that it leads to much of the album's instrumentation building around vocals and providing 'back up', rather than grabbing hold of the reins and consistently impressing me from a technical level. The young blood drummer Yuma Van Eekelen performs very well though, pummeling away at the kit and giving a nice fire under the stale casserolle that Pestilence has become.
2011 certainly has not been the proudest year for death metal, and its sorry to see a band that was once so great, become so frightened to do anything new. The same fans who rejected Pestilence's progressive inclinations will probably find themselves pleased with 'Doctrine', but the new material of this band is unnecessary by any other means. 'Doctrine' has not been the biggest disappointment of its genre this year- after all, who can forget about that tragic Morbid Angel album- but there needs to be the will to do something new in this band before I can find myself interested in anything new they do.
It seems this album is being quite poorly received which is a crying shame. I'll get a quick forewarning out of the way, if you have an aversion to anything modern, jazz-influenced, or Meshuggah you don't need to hear this. If you expect a return to Consuming Impulse you can also give this a firm miss.
With that out of the way, 2011 sees the release of Pestilence's sixth full-length, Doctrine. The band have added 8-strings to their technically sautéed death metal. The jazz fusion influence heard on Spheres has returned, and with the inclusion of 8-string guitars the band have found a dirty, mechanical sound drenched with a fat low end. Mameli has channeled his inner Van Drunen and sounds like a raging mad man, just take a look at that bile-curdling scream at the start of "Amgod" – Mameli sounds fucking insane. Jeroen Paul Thesseling who has recently been wowing people in technical death metallers Obscura has returned to the fold to lend his 6-string bass talents on Doctrine, which are much appreciated by this reviewer's ears.
The album is quality, but on repeated listens a lot of songs blur into one especially between tracks 4 and 9 although "Absolution" breaks up the monotony with some face-smashing riffs. There are two tracks that standout as particularly great though, the first being "Deception" which boasts a badass riff which makes up the main theme of the track, spiced up with guitar leads and cheeky bass accents which are damn cool. "Confusion" has to be the absolute best track this band have done since getting back together, this one has the most in touch with the sounds of Death, Atheist, etc.
Overall this album is solid and it shows the band are not content to sit around, imagine a mix between Spheres and mid-period Meshuggah and you wouldn't be too far from the sounds on Doctrine. I'll be curious to see how the band progress from here, and while this can't touch the standards of their work before reforming, I'd say this smokes Resurrection Macabre. A good, interesting effort that certainly leaves a better taste in my mouth than the latest Atheist album.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Man, this album has got some bad reviews since its release back in April this year, so much so that I felt obliged to write a review of it and give my own thoughts. This is because Pestilence is a band I have always liked during its periods of activity since I bought their superb debut record Malleus Maleficarum way back in the winter of 1988 and I can't help thinking that much of the bad mouthing of the band's recent releases (Resurrection Macabre came out in 2009 to a lukewarm reception) is based on the fact that former vocalist Martin Van Drunen (Hail Of Bullets, Asphyx, Bolt Thrower) isn't in the band any more (he hasn't been since the '80s) and the band hasn't gone back to sounding like they did on 1989's Consuming Impulse.
I guess I could throw in the fact that vocalist/guitarist and main man Patrick Mameli made some comments in the metal press which caused upset to some death metal fans back in the late 90s and also showed a slight lack of mental strength when responding to less than favourable comments about a demo track posted on Blabbermouth last year (posted, it seems, by people who seem to have a borderline sexual fetish about Martin Van Drunen). None of this has put Mameli in a good light.
However, the band released Resurrection Macabre after a 16 year hiatus and as ever with this situation there was a huge amount of anticipation from fans (think Cynic, Atheist, Autopsy and, to some extent Morbid Angel more recently) which created a bubble just perfect for bursting. And burst it did. But so what? The fact is Mameli's a great guitar player who plays in a metal band. I really don't care what he says if the music is cool.
So, onto the album itself. Ok, first up, the cover picture. Put simply, it's shit. I would much prefer to see some kind of artwork but this quasi-photo style with an evil bishop-type person in the middle doesn't quite cut it. Ok, we all know that bishops are evil, but this really could have been a lot better.
However, as we all know, you shouldn't judge a book, or in this case an album, by its cover, so let's forget about the evil bishop.
The production is excellent, with a mix that allows you to hear everything that''s going on. Each musician here is extremely good at his art and the production and mix really caters for this.
The first thing that strikes me when first track Amgod starts is how Mameli's vocals have changed since Resurrection Macabre. Gone is the deep guttural growl from 2009 and in comes a rasping, screeching vocal more reminiscent of his style on Testimony Of The Ancients and, ironically, with more than a hint of Van Drunen. Mameli's vocal performance here is like adding fuel to the fire. However, I quite like the style and it works here, giving him a deranged sound which fits well with the music.
Mameli also plays guitar along with longstanding band member Patrick Uterwijk. They have used the Ibanez RG2228-GK 8-string guitar to record rhythm for the album and does seem to have added a depth to the rhythm section although I'm really not a fan of the downtuned sound, it reminds me too much of Pantera, Slipknot, Korn etc. However, Pestilence's music itself bears no resemblance to those horrors and there is no doubt whatsoever that this pair are bordering on geniuses when it comes to playing guitar. The riffs vary between trademark atonal chugging behind mid- to fast-paced thrash drumming, and slow 'proggy' passages of jazz-influenced technical doodling. This may sound horrendous but actually it works. Lead guitar is excellent and while you won't find any shredding here what you do get is well thought out, generally slow, atonal, atmospheric solos. Often a passage of music within a track will slow down in order for a solo to come in. Sounds weird, and in some cases it is, but again, I think it works and, of course, the band has used this style many times before.
Bass guitar is handled by Jeroen Paul Thesseling, an absolute master of the 6-string fretless bass. As with the controversial Spheres album (1993) on which he featured, the bass on Doctrine is very prominent and Thesseling really has his own agenda. He doesn't follow the guitar and drums but instead creates his own jazz-laden lines which sit either over or under the guitar. A good example of the same style is Steve DiGiorgio on Death's Human and Individual Thought Patterns albums (more so on the latter) or maybe more pertinent would be Roger Patterson on Atheist's Piece Of Time album, or Tony Choy (who played for Pestilence on Testimony Of The Ancients and Resurrection Macabre) on Atheist's following album, Unquestionable Presence. As Thesseling played on Spheres maybe it's no surprise that this album bears more than a passing resemblance to that album in some passages of music, however, there is none of the 'gayness' of Spheres (check out Personal Energy and Phileas on that album if you want to see what I mean).
New drummer Yuma Van Eekelen (Brutus, The New Dominion) plays beautifully throughout and his drums, snare especially, are nice and loud but not to the detriment of anything else. His style is very similar to Peter Wildoer who played on Resurrection Macabre but the production gives him a much crisper, tighter sound. Thankfully, there are fewer blast beats than on Resurrection Macabre and the tracks are not dominated by these as Resurrection Macabre was, though there are still a few around (opening track Amgod begins with one).
Trackwise, there are no real stand-outs on here for me but Divinity is a cool song. It's a thrasher most of the way through, with an ingenious short drum fill at 1:25 and a nice blast at 2:09. The thrash break at 2:32 on final track Confusion is also killer. The album is dotted with these bursts of intensity, though the majority of the album is on the slow side and 'spacier' than Resurrection Macabre, though no where near as far out as Spheres.
I think people really need to get over the whole Martin Van Drunen love/Patrick Mameli hate thing and see this release simply as a new album by a band that likes to do things differently and not rehash the same old sound. It's not a great album, but I think it's a good one and well worth checking out - indeed, considering the stuff released by Atheist and Morbid Angel recently it's a welcome relief.
Lowlight: The cover art
Originally written for www.braingell.com
Well, after the aptly titled "Resurrection Macabre", could you really expect lightning to strike twice? After leaving behind a career marred by the inconsistencies between albums, Pestilence seemed to have bitten the dust and faded away like the many greats of their era (Atheist, Cynic, Nocturnus). One could only reflect fondly on the massively advanced, vicious thrashing of Malleus Maleficarum, the inspiring rawness and brutality of Consuming Impulse, the less impressive and somewhat innocuous but ultimately catchy performances of Testimony of the Ancients, and the ambitious, love it or hate it ugly duckling of a swansong Spheres. Despite Spheres' rather avant-garde ambition, and for all its moments of genius scattered to and fro, it was unfortunately chock full of too many interchangeable riffs, backed by meandering MIDI programmed patches of strings and synth, and inconsistent in direction. Also, I was NOT delighted by the shameless, abundant use of MIDI, which even for its time, was a dated sound and technique. No Casio keyboards in the Netherworlds? Prolly would've sounded better than MIDI! I don't dislike Spheres and do enjoy it on many levels for it has a great many ideas throughout, but is one of my least listened to of the catalog due to the high polarization between unprecedented creativity and unmemorable redundancy.
So out of nowhere came Resurrection Macabre, and after all the time that had passed, I felt as though their presence in the current ultra-technical, super-sheen, lifeless robo-recordings of today would just be a mere blip on the radar for all but the truly dedicated diehards from an era long past where "songs" went somewhere and actually felt like they meant something to someone, and were mostly devoid of attempts at "winning the competition" of speed and genre-grafting. Much to my surprise, the 1st track started with a misleading warm up grunt from main man Pat that led into the strongest, gnarliest track on the album. From the moment the band was queued in, that album bludgeoned and molested much akin to the likes of your stepfather to your mother while you stared mouth agape as if waiting for a dick to get popped in and those naive eyes glazed with those sweet, sweet tears I typically crave from children that age. Oh shit? What happened? Where am I? Anyhoo! We're not talking about that album, so I guess I'm just wasting your time! Fuck that, let's review this album my little nigglettes.
Ok, so what happened? This album has a wasteful intro. Seriously, I don't care. Get on with it already. The first real track invites us in with the lukewarm, sloppy sound of an 8 string guitar with cheap factory pickups I'm guessing, delivering a rather timid riff atop a blastbeat. All doesn't seem lost until the possibly WEAKEST failure of a scream is so emphysemically bellowed for a whopping 4 seconds or whatever, at which point the once-sufficient vocals (yet never surpassing Martin Van Drunen's) of Patrick Mameli renders him unconscious and needs bong-to-mouth resuscitation. How the mighty have fallen.
To avoid having a seemingly endless review on my hands, I'll just cut the bullshit and declare the vocal performance for the album as a whole as a mixed bag of goodies and dogshit. Some moments Pat Mameli shows shades of his former quasi-glory, whereas there are occurrences where Joe Mamameli really jeopardizes his validity as a serious vocalist in this medium, ie the out of context, retarded Mexican rolled "R"s as in "Arrrrrrrriba!" and his failed attempt at what seems to be a Tom Araya "Angel of Death" scream, but (A) doesn't hardly rival that one and (B) is, again, out of context with the music and poorly placed. No points for these arbitrary ploys at "variety" and "mixin' it up".
So what the fuck happened? It seemed like Resurrection had him on the right path as the creative instructor? Our main man Pat (A), which had hitherto been all in all a satisfactory voxman, now just needs to stick to guitar and get ol' Marty VanFly back to spewing forth pestilence (booyah!). Speaking of guitarwork...now I will rip into this real hit or miss album from the instrumental perspective.
First of all, I'll just say that I don't like this guitar tone, plain and simple. Any tuning below, say A or even G, doesn't really impress me because it starts to sound more like a bass (mainly because they more than likely would have to use a string of about .70 to .80 gauge to effectively hold a tuning of F# or lower). Another thing that annoys me about that is this sneaking suspicion that the Peppermint Patty twins thought maybe that they could lure in some of the Summer Slaughter kids with some "Djent" sound (possibly the STUPIDEST term ever coined. Misha Monsoor, you will pay for such faggotry you douche!!!) and Meshuggah riffing amidst their expected, Pestilence fanfare. Maybe bringing back Patrick Uterwijk (Pat B) wasn't such a great idea, especially after all this time. A lot of the time the process of elimination can point to the variable (introduction of outside force) to the scientific control (well functioning band producing enjoyable byproduct) as the factor which renders the experiment sour and nearly fruitless (does the "I" album ring a bell, Evil D?). On the other hand though, Mama's boy Mameli DID participate in the über gay, 3rd rate Slipknot sounding band C-187...which we, that have shamefully heard anything by them, know is gayer than an all-u-can-eat dick buffet... 'nuff said.
In summation, I will say that after looking past the terrible vocals, "Djent" guitar sound, and abundance of suspicious mixing of Euro nu-metal riffs and Pestilence signature style, this album holds its merits still. There are still moments of clarity where the vocals fit and are passable, there are quite a few riffs that definitely had my ears perk up and one cannot deny that there is some delightful, inventive soloing occurring throughout. Also, their new no-name drummer does not dazzle the seasoned listener of the genre, but nevertheless holds it down and keeps it tight, all the while having a tolerable, natural drum sound seldom found in today's death metal market. The bass lines of Thesseling ubiquitously hold together the foundation of rhythm and melody without overwhelming the recording with self parody a la Alex Webster or whomever else, only taking the spotlight here and there to highlight the passages. Kudos to his near flawless legacy (sorry JPT but I can't forgive participating in Mayan. Guess a nigga gotta pay his bills tho!).
If you are a veteran fan and have enjoyed all their works previous and ain't got no bones 'bout passin' the Dutchies, you might welcome this album into your good graces. If you were hoping for a return to their earlier days or to pick up where they left off with Resurrection Macabre, you may only find discernible traces "Peppered" (self-referential pun, boom shakalaka!) into each track, a midst all the "core" riffs and wheezing grunts and growls. Overall, as good as it may get these days, considering the endless landfill of shitty albums being shat out.
for more of my scathing reviews, visit here:
From 1987 tot 1991 a small Dutch group brought the world much joy and especially great music. As if inspired by the gods of thrash and death themselves, Pestilence unleashed the greatest Dutch death metal album to this day, Consuming Impulse. But just like many artists, should they have stopped right there? No, because no matter what people might think, Testimony of the Ancients did have some brilliant moments as well. Of course the album lacked some productional filthiness and had less impressive (but adequate) lead vocals. But still it was a very good death metal album.
From that point on inspiration was gone. Let me quote: Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour. Literally, the word means "breathed upon," and it has its origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism. In Greek thought, inspiration meant that the poet or artist would go into ecstasy or furor poeticus, the divine frenzy or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his own mind and given the gods' or goddesses own thoughts to embody.
Some angels must’ve pissed on Mameli’s brain for about 4 years and then left him to die because everything after 1991 sounds contrived, uninspired. Spheres was NOT groundbreaking. I was there, it wasn’t new. It was just annoyingly harmless middle of the road death metal. If one listens closely one will hear leftover riffs from the Testimony sessions with the only difference having jazzy leads, funny effects and a flat cardboard production. All easy gimmicks to make it seem Spheres was anything special. Also Mameli had literary started insulting pretty much the entire metal community so his credibility was pretty much gone. But STILL I was hoping they would someday surprise us with a worthy album. Some heroes get more credit than others you know.
I actually liked the comeback album Resurrection Macabre. It had a few great songs and at least it was a death metal album again. I thought it was a good start. An album you’d give 70-80 points because you’re glad they’re back and playing death metal again. They had to get acquainted with the genre again so give’m some time. You know, like people who haven’t driven a car in many years. Practice! Again, some heroes get more credit than others.
So, I was hoping they would now go in for the kill.
Feeling the need to contrive instead of compose again and possibly because Mameli’s heart honestly isn’t into real death metal anymore even though he claims it is, they released an album half filled with Spheres leftovers and a new element: groove metal. I do not know where Mameli has been the last 15 years but in 2011 anyone with love for old school death metal and even jazz metal freaks bloody well hate that genre. It was the death of old school metal in 1993 so in 2011 it is beyond not-done. Maybe the kids (Pestilence listeners who weren’t around the first time) could take a liking to this. But we, the old folks, simply can’t.
There are some great riffs here and there, sure! Since from time time Mameli does come up with some great ideas but then songs as a whole are ruined by meandering chugging parts all over the place.
In the end the only good thing going are Mameli’s vocals which are raspy and pretty much his best ever! Also I really love the album cover. But that about wraps it up. This jazzy groove album with only incindental hints of the old brilliance is the third nail in Pestilence’s coffin. Just one more Patrick, just one more….
Would you believe me if I said that this ugly cover was the best part of Pestilence’s Doctrine, the follow-up to the utterly disappointing Resurrection Macabre?
By now, you should already know what this review is going to look like. After an overly long, useless intro that does nothing whatsoever to establish any kind of atmosphere, we’re greeted by boring-ass groovy riffs an especially awful attempt at imitating the Martin van Drunen. ‘Amgod?’ This song should be called ‘Amshit,’ because damn is it awful. What really irks me about this song is that it plods around sounding like it has the intentions of being ambitious, but it utterly fails at that on so many levels that it’s insulting.
The title track continues this trend of attempting to be technical, but failing at doing anything remotely interesting. Hell, the main riff this time sounds like it was ripped out of some generi-core song. The breakdown here doesn’t really help matters either. I shit you not, the only reason I even bothered to listen to this album was because it bears the Pestilence name. If I had just heard this sample and not known who it was, I’d have ignored it, and that basically sums up the main problem with this album as a whole. It’s simply not Pestilence.
Groove-stilence continues on ‘Salvation,’ where there is some blatant Meshuggah worshiping going on around the 1:44 mark (so I guess that means that the Metalsucks guys would totally love it, m i rite, lololololol?). ‘Divinity’ evens rips off the bands that already rip off Meshuggah, so we get more of that boring shitty riff that those bands employ. I guess this is the trend with this album–either bad riffs, or bad ripoffs that have nothing to do with the once-great past of Pestilence.
One this I will say is that some of the solos here sound decent, like the one at the end of ‘Absolution,’ but once again, those sound like they’re modified versions of Meshuggah solos, but adapted to this more straightforward groove metal approach. Still, as inoffensive as these solos are, they also don’t stand out at all, and I would never describe them as memorable in any way, shape, or form.
I could go on and talk about how unremarkable every track here is, but that would be doing Doctrine way too much justice, because these songs simply don’t bother to attempt to distinguish themselves apart. Ten indistinguishable songs that all happen to suck are honestly not worth anyone’s time, and simply put, this album should be ignore by anyone with a semblance of taste in death metal. I went into this expecting it to be bad, but holy hell, it exceeded my expectations in the worst possible way. I almost feel like Pestilence and Morbid Angel are competing with each other to see which can have the worst new death metal album by a formerly good band. Atheist took that crown last year, and Pestilence have made a decent run at that title this year, although this isn’t quite as bad as Poopiter. Still, it’s really fucking close.
Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com/
Patrick Mameli's decision to resurrect Pestilence was not an entirely popular one. The age of the dead rising in metal has led to some of death metal's finest creations, spilling blood for their grotesque and morbid fans in the greatest of ways, but Pestilence came up short during "Resurrection Macabre," especially compared to the group's prior releases. With "Doctrine," Tony Choy has left the picture again, but Mameli acquired former members Jeroen Paul Thesseling on bass and longtime axeman Patrick Uterwijk to fill the void, both men finally back home. All the pieces are in place, and "Doctrine" is probably the most experimental Pestilence release next to the notorious "Spheres," but still, this is pretty vapid stuff. The material is technical yet foolishly simplistic, and the song writing reeks of pedestrian roots, definitely an unacceptable malfeasance branded by a legendary group.
The layered, complex magic which granted Pestilence might throughout groundbreaking efforts like "Testimony of the Ancients" finds itself watered down significantly here, and in the most confusing of ways. For example, the album explodes into "Amgod," and the musical endeavors are boiled down to simple, chugging riffs, Thesseling's wacky bass playing and the corky percussion of Yuma Van Eekelen's technical hands. It's really weird, because the upfront musicality doesn't seem too complex or musically taxing, but there's also strange drum fills and bass lines scattered throughout "Doctrine," and the overt simplicity regarding the guitars is quite deceiving itself; Mameli and Uterwijk aren't known to cut corners when it comes to shredding.
Most of "Doctrine" follows suit, and it makes for a pretty strange album overall, truly having little to do with Pestilence's discography barring the oozing jazz and progressive elements which reek of "Spheres" reborn, yet certainly not as riveting or optimistically shocking. Some will call it progressive, others jazz, and the technical aspect is undeniable, but it's a dull album regardless of what it "Doctrine" is at heart. The riffs are generally stuck in a mid-paced gear and often times fail to hook on relevant territory, whereas Mameli and Uterwijk sluggishly solo over and over again in an uninspired, insipid attempt to circulate their guitar work into the bizarre rhythms and simplistic postulates. Mameli's vocals return to the guttural shouting one might call a poor man's Van Drunen, although he does some insane stuff with his voice occasionally. Nothing extraordinary, but certainly worth mentioning.
Sadly, few things do stick out. I'm pretty sure that Thesseling's return to the band led to this confusing direction, as the similarities to "Spheres," especially in Thesseling's bass playing, are clearer than daylight. The way his fretless bass bends and twists over and under the constant meandering of riffs is actually a spectacle in and of itself, truly the work of a bassist in prime form. Yuma Van Eekelen's rookie performance also does not go unnoticed, as his algorithmic percussion and spastic fills are nice additions to "Doctrine" as well. The remaining sectors of "Doctrine" succumb to aimless complexities and careless song writing falling into overtly-repetitious territory and everyday woes of how not to do unusual death metal.
Maybe this was a failed experiment that just didn't pan out like Mameli and crew intended. After all, Pestilence sheds its skin more than a paranoid snake, and the sound change coming from the brutal "Resurrection Macabre" to something entirely outside the box must have been a difficult transition, not to mention the reunion between Mameli and his previous associations. Needless to say, if you're expecting "Consuming Impulse" reshaped and repackaged or a worthy sequel to "Testimony of the Ancients," forget about it. "Doctrine" is just as unexpected and abstractly calculated as any Pestilence album, but unfortunately only in its dire nature and substandard articulations.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Pestilence, one of the great death metal bands of the early 90's, return with the second album of their comeback, a different sounding beast all together, but still disappointing.
The album is a collection of rough shards and angles; of half baked ideas and a million half formed riffs; a change of direction from their comeback album, with it's straight forward brutality. Nothing really sticks to the wall with this album; the attack is as ferocious as ever, and the fretless bass, though outstanding, belies the jazz intentions. Their earlier 90's album, Spheres, was a straight up attempt at jazz metal, with mixed results, and though lacking Sphere's quiter parts, is no less a mixed bag, and perhaps even more of a failure. Spheres was an example of failing as none dare fail, where Doctrine just fades into unmemorable sterility. And most memorably, where the music shift's into staccato Mushugga-like heaviness, it is mostly derivative and predictable, almost deathcore-like (though not quite as annoying). Problematic is Patrick Manelli's change of vocal tone, the deep growl of the previous album as turned into a hoarse croak. The production is also a problem; too much treble, and clanky in the worst way.
Add a few quiet whispers here and there, and you have a fairly annoying album. You are advised to check out this bands early material. Consuming Impulse is a pure death metal classic. Malleus Maleficarum is ultra sick thrash. Even their previous album, Resurrection, is palatable compared to this tripe.
The Dutch technical death metal legend Pestilence is back with their second album after the reunion. Some line-up changes have happened since the last album, Resurrection Macabre. Tony Choy left the band and Jeroen Paul Thesseling is replacing him. Also there is new drummer, Yuma van Eekelen, from Brutus. I don't know, do these kinds of changes really matter, but like before in his career, from Testimony of the Ancients to Spheres, Patrick Mameli and his men have again went to more jazz-influenced direction in their music.
Resurrection Macabre promised a lot, and even it was technical, being quite similar like the first three albums. But like on Spheres, it seems like Mameli's ambition as a musician has taken band into a direction, what the fans of the band's older production is hard to tolerate. On one hand, the band may gain more fans, but on the other, I think that this new material is too introverted for the most people.
The album begins after the long intro with the track, 'Amgod', that is mostly fine death metal, but even this track we have some original jazzing, creating the atmosphere to almost the whole album. Death metal and jazz are both very strong elements on this album, but this soup is done with such a challenging recipe that it's very hard to say anything sure even after dozens of listens. The only thing that I'm really sure is that on Resurrection Macabre this stuff worked much better. It's sure that Mameli and his men are extremely skilled musicians, but this time it feels like the sound was entirety taken over by the vision. It isn't really a bad thing, not at all. Some evolution has happened, like Mameli’s vocals are much better now, but this album still confuses me. Maybe the album will open to me couple years later.
Pestilence is a big brand name in the world of death metal. Their earliest releases helped build a strong foundation for death metal in Europe. Naturally, after 4 brilliant albums, things didn't work out and everyone moved on. Around 2007 Patrik Mameli smartly realized that Pestilence is a valuable brand name in the heavy metal underground, and cashed in with a reunion and complete turd of an album. This is not the most offensive thing Mameli has ever done (C-187), but it is damn near close.
I came upon "Doctrine" with an open mind, having enjoyed a few of the more recent retro-old school death metal cash-in albums such as Atheist's "Jupiter" and even Autopsy's "The Tomb Within" EP. Ultimately "Doctrine" proved itself too offensive to recommend. Starting with "Amgod", Pestilence makes a very clear and precise statement of intent. A bold and sludgy ultra down-tuned guitar tone, straight off a Meshuggah album, begins flopping out unexceptional riffs. Ok, this won't be a throwback album... that is fine, it is a sludgy, mid-paced groove metal album with death metal drumming. "Sinister" is a nice showcase for this horrid muddy guitar tone as it lumbers along, and the song is highlighted with a guitar solo straight from "Chaosphere". Jeroen from Obscura is an exceptional player, and his (typically fretless) basslines here do well to accentuate whatever bland groove Mameli has chosen to ruin each song with.
Resurrection macabre was a fitting description for the self-deprecating return of a once exemplary death metal band. Pestilence has brutally stripped, raped and strangled their once brilliant and obscure legacy with this boring groove oriented album. Without the Pestilence brand name this album would get zero attention from anyone. Skip it.
Pestilence is a name legendary in the annals of death metal. From the late 80's through the early 90's, they released four scintillating pieces of continually evolving and sophisticated death-thrash. And while they may have lost the thread a bit with Spheres, they never once released an album that was so sub-par as to be unlistenable. But they have now. And while I was no great fan of their comeback record, Resurrection Macabre, I could appreciate that further elevation of sound, a foray into brutal death with technical overtures. But it wasn't great, merely capable. One mediocre record, I could stomach; two is more than I can stand. Doctrine is completely unworthy of the once great Pestilence name.
Right off the bat, there are no musical advancements. Each previous Pestilence record had been an elevation in style, a turn in the path but from the intro into "Amgod," the first thing I notice is that we are strictly re-treading the ground already covered with Resurrection Macabre: brutal blasts and chugs with alternating tempos and occasional surges of brilliant musicianship in the leads -- none of which distracts from the repetitive anonymity of the riffs and structures. For a band that was once so distinctive, nothing here screams Pestilence to me. "Amgod," and almost all the songs that follow it, are bland, faceless slabs of brutal death with only occasional flashes of the once flourishing Pestilence brilliance. Sadder still, imitation abounds in the mechanical lock-and-stop riffing of the title track and "Dissolve," riffs that hearken back to Fear Factory and Meshugguh. It appears all innovation has left the building.
Occasionally, the superior musicianship shines through. The rhythm section is certainly tight, locking down a solid groove and mustering forth for the thrashy parts with a harrowing velocity. And while the riffs are mostly dull, the lead playing is still quite capable. Patrick Mameli was always an excellent soloist and he demonstrates that ability more keenly here. What kills me are his vocals, which have taken a strained and painful turn. Attempting to open up his register, he sounds thin, with a grating, airless articulation that sounds like sandpaper over the music. Between his voice and the dull riffs and plodding structures, this record basically ends up dead in the water.
As a lifelong fan, Doctrine really doesn't hold weight. For someone new to Pestilence, or for generalized fans of brutal death, this record might hold some interest. But it certainly won't demonstrate the previous level of this once revered band's reputation.
Resurrection Macabre was easily one of the more divisive of the death metal 'comeback' albums in the past decade, with one half of the listener base decrying it as a cash-in or mindless afterthought, or harboring ill will towards various questionable statements made by Patrick Mameli during the band's long hiatus; the other praising its mesh of ingredients from the band's first three, legendary full-lengths. I happened to fall deep in the latter category, and immune to the exaggerated hyperbole of the former. I found the album immensely enjoyable and am still spinning it in a regular rotation today, despite a few minor flaws (semblance to a few Testimony of the Ancients tracks, excess if intentional repetition of the track titles in the lyrics).
Besides, if you gauge the reality that Resurrection Macabre and its ensuing tour earned barely enough to cover the bands production fees and travel expenses, the implication that it was some sort of cheap cash-in is entirely laughable. As for Mameli's unfortunate statements...if I based my metal listening choices on the irrational and emotional outbursts and tongue slips of musicians involved, my play list would be carved down to like a half dozen bands. Was the comeback as remarkable as the band's Martin van Drunen-fronted fare? Not on your life. But as a strangely mechanical contortion of the band's hypnotic rhythmic sensibility, high production values and great riffs and vocals, it was about all I could have hoped for as a long time fan of all their prior full-lengths (yes, even Spheres).
Two years later, and we've got Doctrine, the sixth Pestilence effort, and one which follows rather closely in the footsteps of its direct predecessor. In fact, this is the least evolutionary or retro-evolutionary step in the band's career. Like Resurrection Macabre, the focus is on primal, punctual palm mute patterns ("Sinister", "Salvation") interspersed with eerie octave chords ("Amgod", "Malignant"), sparsely erupting into more frenetic tech thrashing fare ("Doctrine", "Confusion"). A number of curious aesthetic choices were made here like the simple, almost unanimously one-word titles redolent of their interludes on Testimony or the furthered inclination towards the repetition of the choruses, which admittedly grows annoying in the closing moment of "Sinister". Patrick Mameli has actually claimed a wider emotional range than the past three albums, the growls scaling and descending intense heights, even displaying an unexpected ability to scream at higher elevation, and the technical performances, especially of the rhythm section (Jeroen Paul Thesseling and Yuma Van Eekelen) are incredibly tight.
The band does actually reach back into their jazzy guitar synthesis here. Not to the extent of Spheres, but there's no doubt that the bridge of "Salvation" is intended as more than a wink and a nod to prior Pestilence experimentation. This is not unwelcome, as it adds a bit more depth than the largely muted rhythms of the verses are able to manifest alone. Unfortunately, if I were to compare this to any of their older works (even Resurrection Macabre), the songs just don't add up. They're interesting, and grow even more effective through a few listens to the album, but I constantly felt myself awaiting hooks that seemed to hover over the precipice of possibility and then never manifest into the actual songs. Whereas songs like "Horror Detox", "Devouring Frenzy" and "Hate Suicide" were both immediately catchy and enduring, there are too few here that stride the same path of quality. Thus, the better tracks throughout Doctrine are those that exhibit the most dynamic range, escaping the subdued monotony and primacy of the bludgeon grooves that comprise most of the experience.
There is still much going for Pestilence, and I for one am glad they are still 'going', but I can't sugarcoat the recognition that this is their least impressive effort to date. Fans of modern death or thrash metal with jazz and progressive influences, still moored in brutal breakdowns, with slick production values and talented musicians capable of restraint, will certainly want to check this out. Think a mix of Testimony of the Ancients, Destroy Erase Improve era Meshuggah or Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects, and you're in the right ballpark. But in lieu of this Dutch staple's mighty legacy, I expected a lot more, especially after the the 2009 comeback already served as their midlife crisis management, finely fusing their past ingredients into a fun pummeling. Doctrine seems more of a sidereal glance than a stride in any direction, but its not without a few exceptional hints of headbanging mirth.