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Way more thrash than death but still damn good - 87%

dismember_marcin, October 1st, 2011

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"