without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Pestilence’s debut release’s main argument is thrash metal, in a very pissed off and heavy fashion. Aggression and ferocity are the weapons of choice instead of the sickening and gory DM gimmicks. There are glimpses of death metal but it isn't the most dominant influence of the record, the fastest riffs kind of flirt with it but it never displays the dense and fear inducing genre’s trademark atmosphere completely. There are no blast beats either and vocals aren't as deep as the classic DM growls. I feel an intense Kreator influence in some intriguing riffs with a mysterious halo on them, like on “Bacterial Surgery” where there are some passages that mix slow chords in the back and some eerie melodies, developing a haunting and surrounding vibe. Songs are pretty good but not extremely memorable, at least not every song on the record. It has its moments of course, and it’s important because it marks the beginning of one of the biggest DM acts of the world; but it is nowhere near the next couple of albums in originality and inspiration.
In terms of composition, the band has always been very mature and talented. Songs feature a strong sense of perspective at the time of writing in the way riffs drift from one movement to another, and there’s a lot of variety without losing the song’s identity. Having two guitarists is something they exploited since the beginning; there are lots of arrangements by Patrick Mameli while the other guy plays the riffs. There’s another particular aspect I like about the band, and it is the sense of musicality they have when they slow down things at some points to explore a colder ambient, beyond the mean and speedy edges thrash metal is known for. Sometimes they speed up things even more, like on “Extreme Unction” and “Cycle of Existence”; giving the songs a demented and frantic feel that distinct them from the rest, even if they are accelerated and violent too.
Production is very neat, it lets you hear every instrument individually and as a whole it sounds nice even if it’s not perfect. The recording process was handled in a very professional way I figure, the master tracks sound awesome but there’s something in the mix that doesn't convince me. Guitar tracks are too thin; I would have had them louder. The distortion they used is very raw and tube-amp like, I love that shit but they lack some weight for my taste. The bass guitar has some breathing space due to this phenomenon… it doesn't really add anything to the music because it just follows the riffs, but hey at least it’s there! Drum fills aren't extremely technical or creative but they join the riffs nicely and the double bass drums are properly used. Overall drums sound very old school, not as vivid as today’s digital recordings of course; there’s a hollow reverie on the snare’s sound and the bass drums sound kind of opaque. It doesn't affect the music’s essence or its appreciation though, and taking into account the album's age I bet it sounded spectacular back then, I have to point that out.
Standout tracks: “Extreme Unction”, “Commandments” and “Bacterial Surgery”.
It probably isn't even necessary to get into any kind of detailed intro for this band. Pestilence is the reason for a couple of massive things in the metal world. Firstly, this is where the death metal god Martin Van Drunen got his start before venturing off onto other amazing projects (including Asphyx, Hail of Bullets and even Bolt Thrower for a bit). The other notable deed from the Dutch masters is the release of this awesome record "Malleus Maleficarum" and the masterpiece that is "Consuming Impulse." This album is the first of what would be a varied discography for Pestilence, as none of their full-lengths sound the same. The debut is definitely the most raw release (and it could even be considered primitive if compared to the later albums) and shows this four-piece band excelling in a genre that was still at a creative peak with other top-notch thrash releases like Morbid Saint's vicious "Spectrum of Death," Coroner's dark, technical thrashterpiece "Punishment For Decadence" and Forbidden's awesome debut "Forbidden Evil."
I mentioned that this is the band that saw the introduction of my all-time favorite death metal vocalist Martin Van Drunen. However, his vocals on "Malleus Maleficarum" are unlike his tortured growls of his latter work, as they're more suited for a violent thrash group because they're much less throaty or deep, sounding like a mix of Chuck Schuldiner and Jeff Becerra. The riffage, too, is much more thrash-oriented than the band's later albums, but it doesn't affect the quality whatsoever. The wicked riffs that are seemingly littered throughout this album could hang with just about any of the others heard on plenty 1988 releases. The rhythm section didn't really do anything overly impressive, but they did their job well and that's plenty enough to make the music here heavy and headbang-friendly. The lead guitar work is another highlight on this album as the two guitarists showed that they're not just playing brutal riffs and trying to be heavier than the every other band, but that they're capable of writing memorable songs filled with awesome melodies and solos.
The album-opener "Malleus Maleficarum/Antropormophia" starts the record off on a darker note with a kickass buildup featuring tremolo riffage which eventually leads to some thrashy riffs from hell. "Chemo Therapy" is an absolute curbstomper of a track with its whiplash-inducing riffs and an incredibly catchy chorus. "Parricide" and "Cycle of Existence" are just further proof that Pestilence are indeed masters at riff-crafting, with terrific midpaced sections and vile tremolo bursts. There aren't any complaints that could be made about "Malleus Maleficarum," and while it may not be as good as the record that came after it is still a quality listen and an album that is very worthy of your time. Let's just add this album to the list (and it's a pretty decent size list) of brilliant releases from the Dutch, sit back and bang our heads silly to some of the finest death/thrash to be bestowed upon the metal masses.
"Cycle of Existence"
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.
Before they were officially death metal, Pestilence put this thrashterpiece out. Out of their first four albums, this is probably their least unique. Patrick Mameli and the boys really honed their craft on the next album by throwing in much more variety than on here. But Malleus Maleficarum is certainly not bad.
This is not death metal. I hear East Coast thrash here. And lots of it. Namely Anthrax and Overkill in their prime, but much faster. Those breakdowns could have come right off of Taking Over! That could be the Slayer influence, which is also very well pronounced, especially in the tremolo picked sections. Unlike later albums, I don't hear very much Possessed on here. Even Martin Van Drunen's vocals are not the unholy roar of later albums. They're kind of a scratchier, teenage Lemmy. And they go really well with the thrash feel of the album.
The solos sound like the solos from Haunting the Chapel; frantic, pick grinding insanity that doesn't have a lot of direction, but rips the hell out of your ears. A few areas show Patrick Mameli's budding lead guitar mastery, namely "Chemotherepy" and the instrumental "Osculum Infame." He uses his whammy bar dives really effectively, something that characterizes his playing. Melody is nearly non-existent, except for the intro and the melodic lead in "Chemotherepy" and "Osculum Infame."
I don't spin this one too much, and when I do, I prefer it in small doses. With the rapid pace of the album, it has a tendency to melt together in a frenzy of skank beats and furious waves of angry guitars.
Several bodies have been tortured in many different ways... Knives have split the flesh and cut out the eyes, an axe has chopped the hand off... One person have been hanging, another burning on the stake, all experiencing the cleansing pain of divine tortures, made by the holy institution of Inquisition. This is Malleus Maleficarum - The Witches Hammer, lunatic ways of tormenting the heretics, women mostly, as they were more susceptible to the devil’s temptations, they were weaker than men and more carnal (The Malleus Maleficarum accuses witches of infanticide, cannibalism, casting evil spells to harm their enemies, and having the power to steal men’s penises!).
"Malleus Maleficarum" is also the title of the legendary debut album of Dutch death / thrash metal crew Pestilence and the scenes of torture I described in the beginning are what you'll find on the front cover of this record. Unfortunately the lyrics don't really deal with the inquisition topic and tell about completely different, more present problems (scientific experiments, totalitarian propagandas etc), but I definitely like the artwork on the LP. After releasing two quite good demo tapes, the band signed a contract (pact??) with Roadrunner Records and recorded the first album. And it was in 1988! Man, I can't believe it was such a long time ago, because for me the album still sounds fresh and unique, just as when I've heard it first time in about 1993.
If you listen to all Pestilence albums, you'll notice that the band was constantly changing and none of their albums were the same. It all started with "Malleus Maleficarum", which is so different to the future records that you may think it’s different band. It was 1988, so the death metal scene was still in its infancy, only bands like Death, Sepultura ("Schizophrenia"), Massacra or Possessed were slaying with their full lengths and the style was very influenced by thrash metal. And the same goes for "Malleus Maleficarum". This LP has a strong thrash metal sound, noticeable in every detail, from the razor sharp riffs and cacophonic guitar solos to the vicious screams of Martin van Drunen. His way of singing may definitely surprise you, if you know the albums that Martin has done after "Malleus Maleficarum", either with Pestilence or Asphyx... The way he sang on "Malleus Maleficarum" was not the death metal brutal growling, but rather kind of furious, raw screaming, closer to Mille Petroza, Jeff Becerra, Max Cavalera or even early Chuck Schuldiner.
Speaking of the music, this truly is one of the best records of that time. The songwriting is absolutely brilliant here. The riffs are totally infecting, they'll catch your attention immediately and deliver such a furious energy that it explodes with unmatched strength. The playing is technical, with many sick solos or twisted arrangements, but at the same time it's not polluted with unreadable structures or whatever and first of all is aggressive and catchy / sometimes even kind of melodic. The album has absolutely fantastic opening, as the first three songs are classic and pure metal anthems, that will force you to the maniacal headbanging. "Malleus Maleficarum / Antropomorphia", "Parricide" and "Subordinate to the Domination" are unquestionably the best tunes on the record and they basically will present you everything that you can expect from the entire album.
"Malleus Maleficarum" is also very varied and there are songs like "Extreme Unction" (1:30 short, totally fast death thrashing violence) and from the other hand there's "Commandments", an epic, that starts with acoustics and then moves into fantastic, Slayer'esque riffing, played in crazy speed and also "Osculum Infame" which is acoustic only instrumental. "Chemo Therapy" is another song that I must totally recommend you to listen to, but basically every track is instantly memorable, especially that most of them have catchy / scream along choruses that will definitely force you to join the band and mosh like crazy.
Ufff... What a ferocity. Yeah, this is one possessing album, savage and vicious as hell. I'm not going to say it's my favourite Pestilence LP, because it's not, but definitely one, which has to be in your collection and great anyway.
Standout tracks: "Malleus Maleficarum / Antropomorphia", "Parricide", "Subordinate to the Domination"
I often liken the world of metal music to the Greek pantheon. In it, there are gods, titans, heroes, priests and worshipers. Worshipers do their best to imitate the various gods, patching together their many aspects into something resembling metal music, but rarely worthy of any but the most dim recognition. This is how we got Trivium, for example. Heroes are those bands which rise to the challenge of the gods, upping the ante with faster speeds, technical arrangements, and modern production values that their deities simply never had at their disposal. Priests act as ciphers, directly aping the words and music of their exalted, keeping it alive throughout the decades and causing endless rebirth cycles of their genres, elements, and so forth through the crowds of worshipers. The gods would be the most famous, successful or even notorious bands. The big names: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, Judas Priest, and so forth. Bands so famous that they can launch and sell out world tours, support their great grandchildren through college with ease, and will survive on VH1 'best of' specials until the end of time. But then there are the titans...mighty forces of old who were 'defeated' or cast down by the gods, despite their infinite prowess and crafting of the very foundations of the form.
Within metal music, this translates to those bands who wrote classic, excellent albums that for whatever reason went over the heads or out of reach of the starved masses in the 70s and 80s. There are a great number of these titans, and though their power source may seem long since diminished, some have seen a rebirth in the years of late, through the concentrated worship of an underground of devout cultists that have simply never given them up. For myself, Pestilence would be one such entity, both my favorite Dutch metal artist since the dawn of the power chord, and the band responsible for two of my hands-down, absolute favorite metal albums period, in death, death/thrash or any other sub-genre. But Pestilence are also a band of transitions. No two albums really sound the same, unless you count their latest Resurrection Macabre which seems to be a time capsule back to the pristine dementia of their first two full-length efforts.
By 1988, Pestilence were a band entering a transitional phase that bridged the thrashing roots of their demo days with the surge in extremity many artists were twisting into what we have now long lavished as the death metal genre. Here on their debut Malleus Maleficarum, you can hear both the sire and the child; the former through the crisp, punchy precision and frenzied mosh pit energy that explode at nearly any second on the album; the latter through the hoarse, festering vocals, the cold and clinical lyrics and production, and the muted speed sections which are stupendously good. Martin Van Drunen, at his career best on both the Pestilence records he was involved with, was in my opinion the most distinct and impressive frontman in death metal. Others have been impressive, no doubt: John Tardy, Craig Pillard, Chris Reifert, Jeff Becera, or even Chuck Schuldiner before he decided he was going to become a pseudo-intellectual cosmonaut. But for myself, it was Van Drunen who brought this all together, with a bruising, tortured weight to his vocals that is rarely matched about 20 years and 20,000 death metal bands later. His vocals were a little fainter here than Consuming Impulse, sounding much like a chain-smoking malpractice surgeon serial killer who just escaped hell and wound up at the local emergency ward.
But he's not the only engine that keeps this titan lurching along. Marco Foddis is a hammer-adept who operates at a high level of precision running either high or low speeds, with a clean polish that seemed rather uncanny compared to many of death metal's other prototype drum mixes. Patrick Mameli, the band's core and general, has written a non-stop, 38 minute barrage of surgical riffing which stands among the best in all of death and thrash metal, with an obvious proficiency above and beyond the average axe-slinger of his day. He performs both bass and guitar here on the album, and while the former is a little subdued in the mix, the rhythm guitars are enforced by Randy Meinhard (on his only Pestilence album, before Patrick Uterwijk would step in) and barely give you the time to notice. Armed with a proper Kalle Trapp knob twiddling (he has also mixed and produced work by Destruction and Blind Guardian, among others), Malleus Maleficarum has a pinpoint, eerie but honest tone to it, which seems strangely haunting even by today's far more advanced parameters.
But really, it's all about the vocals and the riffs. While the album is not necessarily as brutal as its brilliant, crushing successor, it creates a faster paced, technical environment in which the mad doctor flourishes his scalpels and begins a series of careful, taut incisions that maximize the pain and bleeding of the unfortunate patient. Tracks like "Extreme Unction", "Systematic Instruction", "Cycle of Existence" and "Bacterial Surgery" move with some the most violent, breakneck speed thrashing since Slayer's Reign in Blood a few years prior, all the while vomiting forth a series of unforgettable riffs that are both menacing and rather unique for their day. There is far more than just speed to this band, the compositions themselves are impressive, and the album never leaves you hanging on a guitar line even bordering on uninspired, as Van Drunen howls above the seething mass a slew of serious business lyrics that made most thrash and death metal of the 80s seem absolutely infantile by comparison.
'Followers of false belief praise idolatry
Worship statues made of stone the adoration
Depiction of the gods in human shapes
Inhuman rituals, biblical transgression
A weapon in your right-hand, in your left a rosary
The polytheistic-monotheistic war
Believers of Almighty prepare to die
Explain to me, what are you fighting for?'
For a closer examination, try the bridge riff and terrifying lead at 1:00 of "Subordinate to the Domination", which breaks for a dual speed/chug tag-team like a sped-up "Raining Blood". What of the frolicking, plague-stricken rhythms of "Chemo Therapy", which play out like a cancer ward patient uprising? What of "Commandments", with its creepy acoustic plucking that cedes for an escalation into turbine powered thrashing violence? The wormlike, gnawing death mutes that thread themselves through "Parridice"? The album even offers a few hints at instrumental grace, like the doomed acoustics of "Osculum Infame" placed against a background of swelling synthesizer and screeching, wailing electrics. Or the morbid, brightly blooded chords and dire melodies of the title track, which serves as an intro to the thrashing lead-in to "Antromorphia".
Malleus Malifecarum is unstoppable. It's a beast, superior to more successful thrash albums of 1988 like ...And Justice for All, So Far So Good So What, or The New Order. Yes, it was that good, even among the highly admirable company of that year's many other masterworks, like Death's Leprosy, Coroner's Punishment for Decadence, and Voivod's Dimension Hatross. The album delivers on all fronts: musically and lyrically. I would cite 'emotionally', except that the album is so highly successful at estranging emotions in favor of its volatile, murderous melange. There is not a single note here, even within the lead bursts that I would alter. It's a prime example of almost everything I loved about the late 80s progression of thrash metal from its crude roots of broken glass, street fighting feel-good misanthropy through its bachelor's, master's and finally pHD in artistic expression. Though this isn't my favorite Pestilence album, it's every bit as flawless as Consuming Impulse, disintegrates the vast percentile of other metal albums of the past 22 years until they become dust, and belongs at the forefront of any thrash or death metal collection of taste. No gods, new or old, can keep this titan buried forever.
Highlights: Every second on the slab. This is one operation you will NOT forget, even if anesthetized until even the sheep are counting sheep.
Just recently I had a discussion about the old Pestilence. A friend of mine swears by ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ while I am clearly of the ‘Consuming Impulse’ persuasion. I thought it was about time I wrote a review about Malleus since I did the rest a long while ago already.
‘Malleus Maleficarum’ is thrashier than ‘Consuming Impulse’ would be. This was caused by three elements: More polka beat (and consequently higher average pace), more thrash metal based riffs and vocally van Drunen was still trying to sound like Possessed (even though his own typical sound was already shining through).
The biggest problem I have with the album is the inconsequent quality of the songs. They’re either great or mediocre. Especially on the first half of the album it follows the “mediocre song followed by good song” formula. The good songs obviously being “Parricide“, “Extreme Unction“ and "Chemo Therapy“. These songs are good because the riffs are great, the performance is energetic but most important, the songs are excellently contrived and worked out. All riffs, lyrics, breaks (etc) serve the song instead of the other way around.
And that’s exactly what makes “Antropomorphia“, “Subordinate to the Domination” and “Commandments” lesser and even somewhat mediocre songs. Yes, there are plenty of great breaks and riffs there but the compositions do not always make sense. The copy-paste feeling peeps around the corner. I’m not saying these are bad songs, just lesser. All three have a great chorus which saves the day.
The second half of the album is dominated by two good songs, “Bacterial Surgery” and “Systematic Instruction”. But then again “Cycle of Existence” is almost ruined by the main riff on the verses. I guess it was composed that way but it always sounds as if played out of time and annoys me every time. The instumental “Osculum Infame” is pretty obsolete. As if they wrote two intros for the album and decided to put the one that was left over, at random on the album.
I said it once but I’ll say it again: I won’t call anything on this album bad nor will I call it a bad album since even the lesser compositions still have some great riffs and chorusses to be highly enjoyable. It’s just that on their next album the songs as individual entities were simply superior.
Unquestionably one of the most original and vicious bands ever born in Europe, Pestilence easily gained a respectable status of cult band along these years. At the time, few believed in them because many were seeing a faded copy of early Death for the influences in their music but other ones, fortunately, were capturing something more from their musical expression and they were able to see the core of a band in constant change.
The beginning is in death/thrash style for the demos and with the first, great album Malleus Maleficarum, the violent, schizophrenic music was already filtrated through a non common technique and a sense of progressive music. The atmosphere in these tracks is one of the gloomiest ones in that period and still nowadays many bands cannot match it. The violence, the impact and the darkness were the essential elements of Pestilence in that magic period.
The production is very clear for the drums sounds and the vocals, but always conserves a beautiful dark touch. From the opener we already can see the awesome blend of thrash metal riffs, dissonant breaks and sudden fast restarts. The vocals by a young Van Drunen are already able to be frightening and truly morbid with that raspy, dramatic and totally sick tonality that still nowadays is a trademark of their unique sound.
Marco Foddis at drums is unbelievable when he comes on the up tempo. He has a chirurgical precision on alternating the fast beats while the two guitarists always draw lines of pure violence united a sense of incredible songwriting with morbid lead lines to create a compact and suffocating sound. The fast riffs run after each other in an infernal organized chaos of fast solos, desperate vocals, catchy refrains (“Parricide”, “Extreme Unction”) and relentless drums.
The song-masterpiece comes with “Commandments”. Five minutes of pure orgasm. The beginning is made of dark arpeggios to end in a total, devastating thrash metal impact riff. The tempo starts to increase and the drums follow behind creating an impenetrable wall of sick devastation. “Chemo Therapy” and “Bacterial Surgery” show incredibly good guitars duets, drums parts and pounding bass breaks. The obscurity is increasing and the dissonant riffs are heavy as a black monolith, pushed by restless palm muting parts.
This album is a real inferno of all the influences you could find in the extreme genre at the time, but redone in a personal and brutal way. Pestilence was already a hyper mature band and this album is here to prove it. So often this band didn’t receive the right attention and now it’s time to re-discover them, also through their incredible debut album.
Pestilence incorporates a lot of musical influences into their sound. The overall result is pure brilliance. It's got the progressiveness of Atheist's first two & the thrash factor of early Sepultura. If you ask me, that's a pretty fucking good combination.
The first two songs "Malleus Maleficarum / Antropomorphia" & "Parricide" are classics. The great thing about Pestilence is that they utilize their guitar solos in the most tasteful way. The guitar solos are excellent and never get boring. Thankfully the guitar solos are plentiful on here too, which I don't usually say as I'm not the biggest fan of guitar solos (as they tend to be vastly unnecessary in most cases). The bass deserves special mention on this album as it is clearly audible and influences the songs nearly as much as the absolutely flawless guitar playing. The drumming is also of honorable mention because the drummer has a great sense of the rhythm structure which is necessary to pull off such complex music.
These guys do not let up on "Subordinate to the Domination" as this song rivals the first two songs in quality. The great sense of how to structure a song is prevalent here. The songs mutate constantly but never bore you. It's really quite mind blowing to hear such a great thrash album incorporate so many different musical elements into it. "Extreme Unction" is a 1:30 song but it is really well executed and extremely pissed off as thrash should be. I really like this song a lot; it's almost reminiscent of crossover, except with death metal vocals.
"Commandments" starts off with a very stunning intro. These guys seriously know how to start, maintain and end songs. Another great thing about this album is that it is fucking heavy and unrelenting without ever losing it's sense of incredible melody. "Commandments" is one of the best songs on the album. But I'll be damned if there is even a single mediocre song to be found on this whole LP. "Chemo-therapy" is an excellent way to continue the second half of the LP. Absolutely insane guitar riffing on this song; probably some of the best arpeggios I have ever heard in my life.. The vocals are particularly awesome as well.
What do you know "Bacterial Surgery" is another gem. Interesting lyrics and vocals keep this LP engaging throughout. They are quite flawless and match the music extremely well. This song is great and heavy as all hell. The chorus is fucking awesome! And wow, the guitar solo at 2:45 is absolutely astonishing at how the guitarist manages to bend the notes. Of equal praise is the other guitarist who plays rhythm guitar rivals the quality of the lead solos! "Cycle of Existence" is pure thrashing goodness. This song has lead guitar work which stabs you in the heart repeatedly with a Booey knife and leaves you lying on the floor bleeding to death. The guitar solos are almost trippy and very skillfully executed as always. If one thing this album can boast, it is having some of the greatest heavy metal guitar solos ever recorded.
"Osculum Infame" is an instrumental piece which further exhibits the ability to play completely insane music. This piece is mellow and is neither great nor terrible, but kind of lulls you into a trance. "Systematic Instruction" finishes the album off and leaves you thinking you've just heard the greatest thrash metal album ever. To further add to the classic re-playability of the album is the other genres of music which the band mixes into their sound. This is very highly reccommended stuff.
This is Pestilence’s severely overlooked debut. It is a Thrash Metal one, although at times it can almost be mistaken for Death Metal, mainly because of the over-the-top deep raspy shouts and the overall intensity of the music. But no; this is Thrash, similar in style to stuff like Possessed’s The Eyes Of Horror or Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains, or perhaps a more polished Pleasure To Kill. The musicianship is extremely technical, yet pummeling and skull-crushing in that familiar old-school style. The riffing style is rather unique. It is aggressive, energetic, catchy and technical all wrapped up into this album, with chugging tremolo riffs interlaced with lots of unpredictable melodies and solo work. The drums are extremely fast most of the time (they probably reach their most frenetic speed in Extreme Unction), while never approaching blastbeats of any kind. This music is nice for almost any setting. You can just sit back and headbang, or have it playing in the background while you work, etc.
The atmosphere this album conveys is just unbelievable, and is part of why I rated this album so high. As I have probably said more than once, it is all-out aggression, yet at the same time it’s never mindless. The riffs conjure up an eerie, almost haunting atmosphere at times. A good example of this is the title track intro, where one guitar lets a note drone on and on while the other guitar plays complex, emotional melodies underneath. It would definitely fit into an epic horror movie of some sort. The songs do a good job of switching between brutal and haunting, in a way that the two seam together and don’t sound forced or watered-down in the least. The lyrics are extremely well-written, especially considering English is not the band’s native language. Serious topics such as religious persecution are addressed, along with tales of things like mutants destroying the human race, and you can’t help but sing along (once you’ve got the lyrics memorized, that is).
So should you get this? Hell fucking yeah! Listening to this album makes my balls empty themselves!!! The 1998 rerelease of this by Displeased Records includes both the Dysentery and The Penance demos, which is almost like a second mini-album on the same disc, as only Affectation would reappear on Malleus Maleficarum itself (under the name Cycle Of Existence). This along with the nice remastering job makes this even more of a must-buy. Whether you’re a fan of Thrash, Death, or Death/Thrash, you will love this.
Highlights: Cycle Of Existence, Extreme Unction, Chemo Therapy, and pretty much the whole album!
“…final means of grace, time has taken your life away…”
The debut from the Dutch quartet hasn’t left my top 30 or so since it came out sometime in ’88, and I’ve probably played it enough times to rival the hairs on my head. At the time, many fans construed Malleus Maleficarum as death metal, me included. In fact, it was often hailed as one of three albums to lift death metal into the ‘90s, the other two being the debuts from Morbid Angel and Obituary. Over a decade and a half and a few worn out turntables later, it is now quite clear to me MM is a thrash album that stands waving on the brink of the death approach without actually shuffling over. Martin van Drunen’s hoarse and acidic vocal delivery doesn’t quite have the guttural undercarriage that’s associated with lungs on the busted floodgates of Scream Bloody Gore or the Brazilian export Schizophrenia that was on wagon trains heading everywhere. By this time Eyes of Horror would be the final toast of Possessed, the ep concerned more with elaborate songscripting and a thrashier bend and would be a bit of a departure from the band’s debut. As well, it’s probably the closest to MM’s sound than any of the few full-fledged death metal releases at the time.
Regardless, a fan of his vocal style on this record is what I’ve been. In addition, I have a sweet tooth for the band’s rapidly evolving rhythms, dynamic songwriting sense, nomadic musical structures, and commanding lyrics that harked scientific, anti-establishment, and impious ends.
The album finds its start with the fairly timid “Malleus Maleficarum”, a musical intro of sorts and rhythmically more free flowing than rigid. This seamlessly rumbles into “Antropomorphia”, a track whose main focus is a dramatic chorus and diagnostic lyrics that can resemble those of Carcass at times. “Parracide” is a full-blown sonic propeller that cuts with a chorus and pre-chorus mighty enough to overturn cement trucks. Drunen is frightful in his vocal course, breathlessly taking on thirteen syllable verses like an auctioneer with bronchitis. The barnstorming structures of the first two tracks coalesce into the massive force of “Subordinate to the Domination”. While the song is quite stringent in its arrangement, it also bends to the will of high-wind velocity as well as more peripheral, droning passages for more character…a character that will lead into the saber-toothed beast that is “Extreme Unction”, a spring-loaded, electrified net that ambushes the captive listener with a surge of black-eyed aggression. “Commandments”, another maniac, rekindles the song-spinning properties of the original two tracks, then blows its top near the end, the wily solo of Patrick Mameli lighting the fuse, and with an acrid proclamation of the title the volcano overflows.
Side two is thrown to the wolves by the nasty “Chemo-therapy”. More raspy title bellowing shakes the song’s foundation while ever-changing rhythms rattle the debris. An upsurge of supremacy builds the start of “Bacterial Surgery” and on one ravaging guitar line charges into motion. Part merciless and part sedated severity, the track is probably the most outwardly contrasting on the disk. “Cycle of Existence”’s strength lies in its off-beat, yet inventive main riff, and the addition of momentous rhythm/tempo shifts and a batch of twisted solos balances the forcefulness of the tune. The album’s producer, Kalle Trapp, lends his fingers to the keys of the somber synthesizer, acoustic, and solo instrumental called “Osculum Infame” that comes off a nifty about-face for the band. Rightfully commanding is final track “Systematic Instruction”, driven by shifting structures, aberrant measures, and chorus as tough and thick as rhino hide.
The strengths in this lp need no microscope to locate and no Geiger counter to measure. Truthfully, there isn’t a track present save “Osculum Infame” that couldn’t have ended MM with the power of a star that’s collapsed within itself, each one a capital investment of thrash songwriting and perseverance. While death metal is well known as being the younger, more malevolent brother of thrash, Pestilence’s debut is derived from the same egg. Consuming Impulse, the band’s sophomore effort, would be born in about a year to stand along side the rest of the death metal wonders.
“…I believe in the resurrection, the return of dead on earth…”