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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.