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Pestilence reached peaks on Consuming Impulse, an exhibition of skull-crushing thrashy death metal, on which they seemed to determine eventually their sound, away from the fragility and considerably oriented-thrash essence of Malleus Maleficarum. However, the departure of Van Drunen to form Asphyx changed the plans of the group, Mameli took vocal duties and became lord & master, getting involved much more into the song-writing process on his own while Foddis took care of the words – they recruited Choy from Cynic to play bass. Those many changes inevitably affected these Dutch’s sound, intentionally focusing on a distinct direction from the second album. By the early-90’s, the death metal movement exploded, a massive amount of new groups came out, some becoming serious rivals for the veterans of the first mid-80’s wave, others making generic stuff that introduced tediousness to the subgenre, so offering something different was the right choice to prevail, Pestilence were aware of that.
Still these guys embrace loyally the characteristic formulas of classic death metal, cuts like the opening “The Secrecies Of Horror” for instance start with a minimalist riff that soon evolves into something more pretentious, adding indispensable variations and tempo shifts, heterogeneity of structures is mandatory and so is the low-tuning policy of both music and vocals. The composition of the tunes reveals an explicit determination for cleaner arrangements, an unusual presence of melody and alternative elements, particularly keyboards, which soon appear on tracks like “Land Of Tears”, providing the music of surprising versatility. You can still find some straight-forward fast-paced raw sections on “Lost Souls” specially – yet aggression and speed are no longer the exclusive objectives of Pestilence. The incorporation of mellow harmonies, quiet lyrical breaks, sound effects and cheesy synthesizers becomes more and more notable, at times crucial to define some of the song-sequences, combined successfully with more ferocity and velocity, making these numbers musically rich and varied. The band is undoubtedly exploring textures and sounds, taking risks and showing fascination for ambient/dark wave as well, constructing occasionally nearly absurd stuff as the groovy distorted annoying main riff of “Prophetic Revelations” that luckily progresses into another display of diverse sections of distinct nature and tone. Mameli & co. also give their titles some heaviness and weight as the generally more calmed traditional tempos of “Presence Of The Dead” and “Twisted Truth” prove – yet never eluding dynamism and energy completely, the group always recovers brutality and power adding some frantic sequence. Certainly, “Stigmatized” and “Testimony” are the most epic moments of the album, on which these Dutch offer the most ambitious development of riffs, the greater variety of sections, introducing among the dominant roughness and intensity those keyboards, melodic lines and immaculate arrangements.
Testimony Of The Ancients is deliberately intended to deny the formulas of its predecessor and avoid repetition, based on more pretentious concept that brought together the extreme nature of death metal and the sophistication of keyboards, along with persistent melody. The risky dangerous experiment worked out in general, Pestilence incredibly manage to set a reasonable balance between bestiality and refinement, making use of elements you never expected from a group like this. Back then, it wasn’t so usual to hear keyboards and so much harmonies on a death metal album, Nocturnus and Atheist were rather an exception, melody was pushed away predominantly by groups that exclusively concentrated their efforts on pure brutality. These tunes discovered unknown and brand-new possibilities for a subgenre that progressively became more tolerant with external elements, which had been inexistent and denied on its earliest stage. So there’s a lot of melody, stratospheric synthesizers, sound effects which get quite annoying sometimes, acoustic guitars, tenderness but also many vigorous parts of absolute aggression, which present an evident reminiscence of Consuming Impulse - don’t be surprised if you have the feeling you heard some of those devastating guitar lines before, these guys rip-off themselves at times, bringing back for a moment the sonic violence of the preceding release. Although the classy lines, sweet harmonies and heavier riffs meant a completely new addition to their music, result of remarkable creativity and fresh ideas. These compositions are admirably well-composed indeed, most tempo changes and riff progression make sense and achieve necessary solidity, always leading somewhere and properly-focused, obeying a specific scheme and demonstrating greater meticulousness and perfectionism from the band. Music and vocals are executed with passion and grace too, Mameli’s voice sounds so Chuck, he makes a terrific guitar combo with Uterwijk and rhythm section is so accurate, all blessed by Mr. Burns’ production/engineering/mixing magic touch.
This was a vital album for the development of death metal into something musically advanced, diverse, denying limitations and restrictions, something challenging and risky. Most strict fans couldn’t tolerate some of these extravagant arrangements – yet Pestilence couldn’t ignore their innate predilection for experimenting, trying something different and exploring horizons never known by any of their peers. Mameli & co. cleverly maintained aggression and speed present among their new alternative patterns, reaching an equal balance with melody without pushing away the genuine concept of this kind of music. Later, some of the bands they inspired went too far and made melody & keyboards supreme and exhausting, interfering with the original essence of the subgenre but anyway, every group needs to reinvent itself from time to time to avoid tediousness, don’t you think? And yeah, you can perfectly skip that enormous pile of stupid intros, which certainly break the continuity of the record, were they really necessary?
One of the debates most commonly brought up when discussing death metal relates to that of Holland's PESTILENCE. Which is better, "Consuming Impulse" and the debut or the albums after (this and "Spheres")? Who is the better vocalist, Van Drunen or Mameli? Opinions seem pretty divided on the matter, with rarely any opting for the middle ground of "I like both". I think "Consuming Impulse" is a great slice of old school death metal and a classic everyone should hear, but I also think with "Testimony..." this band really showed what they were capable of, with more experimental song structures and a slight injection of Jazz Fusion influence as was happening with a lot of this music at the turn of the 90s...mostly thanks to Death and their groundbreaking album "Human", this and other albums that began pushing the envelope at the time.
The most significant difference here is that vocalist and bassist (who never actually played any bass lines on "Consuming"...) Martin Van Drunen is departed, replaced on vocals by lead guitarist Patrick Mameli and the legendary Tony Choy on bass (borrowed from Cynic and who would later play in Atheist). When I first heard this album at a younger and more intolerant age, I hated it mainly because the vocals were "weaker". Let's face it, Van Drunen's vocals on "Consuming..." is one of the nastiest, most caustic performances captured on a death metal album and would be hard to follow up for anybody, yet upon reflection Mameli provides a perfectly good substitute, less extreme but more suiting to the music here...which is also slightly less extreme, but more dynamic and introspective as opposed to the sheer blunt force trauma of a track like "Out of the Body" from "Consuming...". The production quality is smoother and substantially cleaner on this album, which gives it more room to breathe and explore atmospheres. The bass is nice and audible and occasionally provides additional melodies to the guitars although the main feature is Choy's undeniable skill at the instrument, effortlessly matching the technical and thrashy riffs.
The structure of the record itself is also different, with 16 tracks of which half are interludes of various kinds used to break up the main songs, such as the weird heartbeat/insect noise of "Blood" and the Choy bass solo in "Soulless". The main highlight of this album for me has to be "Land of Tears", where a fast technical riff gives way to a breakdown using chords that seem uncommon for death metal, leading into a brilliant melodic solo almost reminiscent of Iron Maiden before falling back into the thrashy main riff again over a demented jazz lead. In fact a lot of this album comes across as almost like technical thrash (akin to early Cynic) as opposed to death metal, the guitars aren't down-tuned like on the previous album and they are a lot more melodic. Any flak aimed at the band over this or "Spheres" is completely unjust in my opinion, this is a prime example of great musicians experimenting with a formula that was already beginning to run a little bit dry, and is one of the great progressive metal albums of its time.
This is Pestilence's most interesting album, I cannot say if it is the best because “Consuming Impulse” is one of the best death metal albums ever, but its way more conventional. Composition wise it is entertaining but this album is even more edgy, it has a wider sense of progression. The production is way more polished than on their past albums, especially “Consuming Impulse” that is raw and heavy as fuck; on this album they coined a cleaner sounding atmosphere, that fits the new concept perfectly I think. Every instrument can be fully heard and appreciated, and the keyboards and guitar synth blended nicely with the traditional metal instruments. The line-up changes –Mameli taking the vocal duties and the addition of Tony Choy on bass guitar- worked good with the “softening” of the band’s sound towards a more progressive and elaborated brand of DM, without losing the aggression and violence as their main arguments.
Vocals aren't as deep as Van Drunen's, more mid ranged and raspy. The words can be heard clearly but still with a horrified tone all over them. Guitar’s distortion isn't as raw as on their previous album -it’s acid and thin- giving the bass guitar a lot of breathing space. There are some riffs that explore higher notes and mysterious vibes rather than just the average dark and heavy DM atmosphere; hints of melody and weird dissonant chords that contribute to the intriguing “open space” atmosphere that reigns over the album. Bass guitar tone is very organic, Tony Choy's preference for finger picking can be noted in the rounded low end, that is present all the time but I would have it even louder on the mix… guitars aren't that noisy and the bass is just there chilling –with lots of class of course- so there’s some punch missing, not in the songs themselves but in the sound.
Even if I would have liked it a little heavier; the distressed, jazzy production gives the album a different and fresh sound compared to what almost everyone was doing in 91’. And it brings the cymbal work to the front row in the percussion department, giving a quiet setting to the passages that need it. The drumming is tight, very aware of the riffs and thought out. The whole drum kit sounds extremely acoustic, as if you were in the same room. Fast parts are fierce and the most elaborated beats sound interesting as well as the numerous fills that bedizen the main riffs.
“Testimony of the Ancients” features a meditated investigation in different textures that go beyond the heavy metal comfort zone but its journey is led by DM, it’s always the base. That’s what makes this record important, and better than let’s say “Spheres”; which is too progressive and kind of loses the fire. I find the tracks in between songs kind of boring, except from the bass solo “Soulless” that fucking rules, and maybe “Free Us from Temptation” that sounds very sinister. Lyrically there’s a subtle change towards a more meaningful direction rather than just the classic negative imagery, but I still don’t love them. And regarding the songs there are no highlights really; the album is pretty constant in quality!
I don't like doling out perfect scores, but Testimony of the Ancients deserves it. Out of the whole death metal movement, I find that Pestilence really hit the nail on the head with this album.
Let's look at the individual components. Quality riffing. There's tons of heavy all over the place, a lot of it displaying a fair degree of Possessed worship, but it goes far beyond that. The melodic parts are fantasic (the guitar solos on "Twisted Truth," the midsections of "Land of Tears," "Presence of the Dead" and "Stigmatized"). Patrick Mameli's growing interest in jazz music really payed off on this album; it's not the overt weirdness of the follow up, Spheres. No, on here, it's evident in the subtle changes and expert compositions. Chords unorthodox for metal are used fairly often, recalling Killing Technology era Voivod, yet used in a reasonably straight forward context. This keeps the songs memorable and instantly recognizable, something which more technical bands have lost. And the guitar solos themselves are everything from stunning melodic composions to whammy bar frenzies without discernible aim.
The little intros placed between every song act as segues, setting up the mood for the following track. These enhance the Lovecraft lyrical themes. Keyboards are not as commonly used as on Nocturnus' work, but quite extensively. And these, once again, work in Pestilence's favour.
Tony Choy plays bass on here, so you know that it will be well done. The bass is placed rather high in the mix, much to my delight. Marco Foddis' drumming is tight. Not flashy, but very solid.
I'm admittedly not a huge fan of Scott Burns' production jobs. They feel a bit too compressed and polished. And to a degree, Testimony of the Ancients doesn't have the nastiness of say, Death's Human or Morbid Angel's Covenant. What it does have, however, is a strange, almost alien feel, with the loud bass, and choppy, not-very-downtuned guitars. When taken into context, it makes more sense, and Scott Burns is spared my wrath this once.
On a final note, I'd like to add that Patrick Mameli's vocals are excellent. A bit deeper than Chuck Schuldiner, and with a bit of the drawn out screaming of Obituary's John Tardy. I honestly can't understand why people get so upset about Martin Van Druen not being on this album. Yes, he's great, and yes, he has one of the most unique voices, but Patrick Mameli is far from bad.
Testimony of the Ancients is certainly not a high water mark of orthodox death metal. Rather, it shows perhaps the outer limits of the genre, the point at which experimentation still permitted the nastiness its role in center stage.
It is undeniable that when you start to listen to all three albums that Pestilence has recorded between 1988 and 1991, you realize that within these three years the band has constantly been changing and none of these three parts of their death metal trilogy sounds the same. The constant evolution, along with revolution that came with the third album, was this band's trademark sign. And "Testimony of the Ancients", is by far their greatest achievement and finest hour, in my opinion. This was also the very first death metal album with Death's "Leprosy", that I've listened to and it was in 1991. So looong ago, but the best thing and something what only confirms the quality of "Testimony..." is that after 20 years, this album still sounds unbelievably fresh and devastating to my ears, each song still is able to crush my ears and honestly I still cannot find any signs of boredom! This is PERFECT album.
"Testimony of the Ancients" is very specific album, one which I think at the time of its release must have arise a lot of controversy. Not only the album brings much more technical style of playing, clearly influenced Cynic and Atheist, but also it fuses death metal with the atmosphere of progressive music. I don't even know if something like progressive metal existed then, but there were albums which were slightly changing the narrow barriers of death metal – I’m talking about the bands like Tiamat, Nocturnus, Paradise Lost... And also Pestilence, who not only used keyboards in so many parts of their third album, but also had some riffs with almost kind of melancholic feel, which differs so much from the usual brutal and extreme death metal playing. Finally, "Testimony of the Ancients" is kind of concept album and all songs are basically connected together with each track preceded by a short instrumental passage - some of these interludes sound really weird, but nicely develop and underline the overall atmosphere of the album, so they do fill up the album well.
Speaking of the death metal, "Testimony of the Ancients" offers some of the best tracks of this genre I've ever heard! I must be honest with you, the riffs and melodies Pestilence played here are immortal, they'll never get old and also what I like about them are the emotions they bring. Some riffs may be just pure aggression, but some other parts are truly emotional and visionary, very melodic and harmonic. The best example is I think the song "Lake of Tears", an undeniable hit from this album, which some of you may recognise from excellent video that was aired on MTV years ago. It starts with an aggressive and fast, purely brutal riff, but somewhere in the middle the song turns into something completely different, it slows down very much and the riffing turns into very deep and emotional, wonderful melody - one, which I find as breathtaking!
"Twisted Truth" is slightly psychedelic at times, but it also has wonderful, melodic guitar leads that are so memorable and engaging! What I like about it, is that even if this song is slower and more experimental, it is also aggressive anyway, due to harsh vocals of Partick Mamelli, who took over the role as the vocalist and turned out to be a fuckin beast, his voice is savage and raw, damn aggressive, but also quite understandable. I must say I like it a lot and am not even able to tell whether van Drunen was better or not, as both growlers had their own and unique style of “singing”.
But to make it clear, this album is not only about the progressive and melodic playing. "The Secrecies of Horror" will hit you with vicious riffs and this is one of the fastest and most energetic songs on the album - and even the keyboards are rather fillers to the riffs rather than play the main role. This is excellent song really, but my favorite from the whole album is "Presence of the Dead". Fuck, what an awesome track, what killer riffs! They're so damn catchy and possessing I can't stop listening to it and banging my skull is just necessary. Pure excellence. "Lost Soul", "Prophetic Revelations" or "Testimony” are another songs worth to be mentioned, but I can be honest and say that truly the whole album deserves to be mentioned, as everything here is amazing and none single riff or whatever are masterpieces. And they all surprise with some excellent and memorable parts.
I think there are no words that I can use and which would really be able to describe this album’s all details and give them a justice. Too much is happening here and there are too many layers in this death metal cake. So I think the best thing to do is just listen to "Testimony of the Ancients" – switch the lights off and let the atmosphere of it possess you. I must advice to open the mind a little bit, as some of the parts of "Testimony of the Ancients" may sound too progressive to the orthodox death metaller, but that’s what this album has done in the time of release… it was breaking the death metal skeleton and all the limits. And it did it perfectly. Truly "Testimony of the Ancients" is one of the best albums ever.
Standout tracks: “Lake of Tears”, "Presence of the Dead", "The Secrecies of Horror", "Lost Soul"
When news arrived that Pestilence had parted ways with Martin Van Drunen, I admit my heart skipped a few beats. What the hell were they thinking? This was one of my favorite bands! How dare they do this to me? Well, it turned out that I was not the center of the universe after all, and they probably had a pretty good reason for the split, but I was loathe to hear what the band might become sans those bloodied, hostile, unforgettable vocal tones. Patrick Mameli was to replace Van Drunen, manifesting his destiny as the multi-tasking frontman, and Drunen's almost nonexistent bass skills were assumed by Tony Choy of Cynic and Atheist, a rather excellent choice for the progressive direction Mameli had planned to take the band in, with a fusion of jazzy principles and guitar synth. However, this transformation would not be fully manifest in Testimony of the Ancients. Only hinted at. Once I caught an advertisement for the great new cover art and album title, I allowed my hackles the chance to recess back into their lair, still poised to strike out in desperation.
The first thing one might notice about this album is that there are 16 tracks. Sixteen whole new songs? Well, not exactly. There are eight new death metal tracks and then eight interludes which alternate between the songs, most labeled with simple titles like "Blood", "Bitterness", "Soulless", "Mindwarp", "Darkening", and so forth. The purpose of these bits and bytes is twofold: to create some poignant scenario that lends additional weight to the real tracks, and to showcase the band in their new found extravagance. Their 'open minds'. A willingness to temper their masterfully crafted, if brutal metallic core with all manner of experimentation. Surprisingly, many of these work, despite the girth of their variation. For example, "Bitterness" is a scintillating flourish of angelic synth and acoustics that perfectly sets up the hard and slow "Twisted Truth". "Impure" offers morbid smut. "Darkening" creates a chaotic tension. "Soulless" allows Tony Choy to take flight, his hammering finger spasms adjoined to a subtle, well plotted ambiance. Unfortunately, they're not all that great, and many are so short that they might better have been saved for full length songs on a more experimental album, post-Spheres, perhaps. After a few of the better breaks like "Bitterness" and "Impure", the rest seem pretty scattered and distracting.
Another distinction to this album is the production, which sounds quite a lot cleaner than Consuming Impulse or Malleus Maleficarum. This is because the band decided to record the album with Scott Burns in his legendary Morrisound studio. Having already met with two excellent producers in their career, why not a third? Burns was already responsible for work with Atheist, Cancer, Death, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and other acts from Florida and beyond, so he seemed a pretty natural choice. As one who preferred the harsh, grinding tones of Consuming Impulse to almost any other metal album ever recorded, I was dismayed by the level of polish on this album. It does make a few of the better songs on this album seem a little sterile, though it's probably a better match for the band's increasing jazz tendencies and Mameli's desire to move outside the 'safer' parameters of brutality that were spawning a thousand new bands into the death metal fold internationally.
Fortunately, this is a Pestilence album, and the band still knows how to write a damn fine song. In fact, almost every one of the full-length tracks on this album is good, even though they might not be nearly at the level of the first two albums. "Secrecies of Horror" has an excellent fade in intro, before the circus-like, clunky rhythm of the verse arrives. Not one of my favorite riffs, but it does transform into a string of serious octave chords, an atmospheric bridge with a synth, and a pretty sick lead segment followed by a more mechanical, thrashing rhythm at about 2:10. "Twisted Truth", on the other hand, is pure fucking greatness, with one of those super simplistic riffs that will have you scratching your head, wondering why it hadn't been done before in quite that way. That the band creates such momentum through such a slower pace is a marvel, and the bass is quite good throughout, in particular as it struts below the proggy sounding solo sequences, of which there are two. "Lost Souls" bristles with a faster beat and thriving energy, replete with escalating, simple chords and further excavations from Choy, resolving in large, atmospheric chords that suffocate the listener like rust-tinged clouds of acid. "Land of Tears" opens with another bouncy, circus-thrash riff, but then breaks into one of the better sheer death metal rhythms on the album, a fairly powerful charge despite the sterility of the studio sound.
The second half of the album took a little more acclimation than the first, for the songs don't feel as immediately memorable. "Prophetic Revelations" starts with a slow, lunging half-groove before it picks into a verse rhythm similar to that of "Lost Souls". Again, there is an extremely polished and almost mechanical subtext to the writing, as if the band were afraid to get their hands dirty beyond the vocals. Ultimately, the song is a winner due to its furious lead break at 2:15, and the return to the sluggish dementia of its intro. "Testimony" is a chugging horror that mutates into a decent floe of progressive thrash metal, with sizzling leads and an excellent, atmospheric bridge. "Presence of the Dead" is one of the better overall songs on the album, with another of the simple sliding octave chord patterns that would reappear often on the band's 2009 reunion effort Resurrection Macabre. However, the true strength is the jazzy bliss of the bridge, the mystique of the leads and the tight, playful thrashing that reminds me of something which might have appeared on Consuming Impulse, albeit in a much cleaner form here. But it is perhaps the final full-length track "Stigmatized" which most closely resembles the band's past albums, at least until the extended fusion of the bridge, which I might add features one of the best lead licks on the album just before 2:30.
One thing I must admit is that, while he's no Van Drunen, Patrick Mameli does manage to somehow pick up the vocal slack and offer a distinct performance here. It's honestly the most brutal element of the album, though it's got a more reserved tone a la Chuck Schuldiner or a less passionate Chris Reifert. I was fully expecting to hate the vocals, and yet I wound up impressed that he could pull it off (turns out he can also pull it off live, as I found out when the band toured North America on this particular album).
In the end, Testimony of the Ancients is just too tidy and 'ambitious' to compete with its predecessors. If you're a sucker for a very sterile, procedural tone to the guitars and mix of your death metal albums, then you'll still be a sucker for this one. And to be totally fair, it's a very interesting record. The cover art is cool, and the 16-track setup intriguing, even if several of its constituent pieces are rusting at the hinges. The actual metal songs here are almost all very good, barring a few lackluster riffs that made me feel like I was at a carnival. While I greatly prefer the spontaneous violence of the band's earlier solos, the leads here at least accessible and catchy. I feel like there is an obvious parallel here to Death. Both bands got their heads out of the graveyard and into the clouds, deciding to expand outwards of their genre without wholly abandoning it. I feel like Testimony of the Ancients was the more successful of the band's first 'breakout' albums, as I believe Human to be a tedious bore with a few pretty solos at best (Remember kids, stoning is illegal here in my country.) At least with this album Pestilence retain a little of their menace.
The lyrics are not as good. The songs...not as good. The production all too underwhelming. But Testimony of the Ancients earns its stripes for the attempted cohesion of so many wandering parts into a streamlined progressive death metal experience, and I still listen to the album rather frequently these days. Far more than I would listen to Human, Atheist's Unquestionable Presence, or Cynic's Focus, at any rate. There was very little chance that Pestilence would surpass the power of their first two albums, which remain flawless to these ears over two decades later, so the forging of this new path was hardly a slap in the face to the fans that so idolized their work.
Highlights: Twisted Truth, Land of Tears, Lost Souls, Presence of the Dead, Testimony
If the fact that Scott "Dr. Death" Burns produced this album isn't enough to convince you that this album is a masterpiece, try listening to it. Despite being a departure from the band's previous two albums, Testimony Of The Ancients is able to break ground and give the listener a new definition of death metal. With Patrick Mameli taking over vocal duties and Tony Choy handling bass, the removal of Martin Van Drunen wasn't that bad of an idea...not that Martin's time in the band was bad, but Patrick was able to make it better.
The album opens with "The Secrecies of Horror", a very powerful track with a cool solo. Following this song is one of the things that this album trademarked: intermission tracks. Some found these tracks to be somewhat annoying, but to me they are an excellent way to build up atmosphere and get the listener further into the album. One of the more notable aspects of this album is that Mamali'sand Uterwijk's guitar work is about half-and-half between more expressive playing (another reason this album varies from their older works) and fast shredding solos, which is a sign that the band was growing and improving in the areas of composition and musicanship.
If anything describes this album best, it's that it's an interesting union of death metal brutality and progressive metal beauty. An example of this is the guitar harmony in the pre-solo section of "Land of Tears", as well as the high-string riff on "Stigmatized" that starts somewhere in the middle of the song. Some parts of this album may also TRIP YOU OUT if you're eating the wrong type of mushrooms, like at the end of the solo in "The Secrecies of Horror" when the whammy-dive has a few studio effects added to so it sounds a bit crazier and more extreme. Also to be mentioned regarding the "trippy" parts of this album include the end of "Stigmatized", where the guitar has a flange effect added to it.
The only downside...er, not-so-above average aspect about this album is the recording quality. I don't judge music by the quality at which it was recorded, but the least Burns (the producer) could have done was make the drums--especially the bass drum---not so weak and monotonous sounding. Other than that, this album is a must have for any metal fan, regardless of preference. Like death metal? Buy this. Dream Theater your taste? Buy it.
Pestilence, Netherlands best progressive death/thrash metal band period. Having released such classics as Consuming Impulse and Spheres, the now more progressive and atmospheric release, Testimony of the Ancients attacks on all spectrums featuring nice vocals reminiscent of Evil Chuck or possibly John Tardy of Obituary. Either way they’re done very well and are probably the highlight of the album, tied with the awesome guitar attack of both Patrick’s. Bassist Tony Choy makes his appearance here and this is when Pestilence starting moving into the jazzy prog death realm and it’s probably because of him and his time spent in Cynic, that’s my guess.
Whatever the reasoning was it still worked here, Testimony of the Ancients is a great slab of jazzy, progressive, thrash influenced death metal. The musicianship here is what you should expect and all that you could ask for, great lead guitar parts mixed with a well done bass that is very prominent as well as being more than just an accompanying guitar follow up. Drums here are still fast and furious, typical thrash influenced drum work varying with more traditional death metal styles. A lot of bands try do this with being overly technical, overly brutal, or overly fast and become absolute failures but Pestilence works it all out without being overly anything (other than possibly the overdone eerie interludes) and still retain a sense of being heavy fucking metal. Just listen to Land of Tears (listen to 3:50 and onwards and tell me you can’t headbang to that!) and you’ll realize how the rhythm section keeps itself in a full forced balance of fast paced drumming and intense riffing and still at the same time has a progressive structure with atmospheric elements. Another thing more prominent on Testimony of the Ancients is the atmospheric or odd little segues between songs being kinda creepy or mesmerizing but in the end is completely pointless for a thrash/death album; especially when it’s not even a concept album. Especially Impure, which essentially is a gong being banged and some chick having an orgasm and breathing heavy while there are like really deep and ‘oooohhhhh’ and a weird ass organ. At least Soulless is a decent little interlude with some hyper fast acoustic picking, something that I remember Krisiun doing once really, really insanely fast.
The songs on here are all decent in their own right, some of them lag back and tend to fall a bit into semi-boring/filler while others just plain kick ass and slay like the first few songs. Testimony is a full out awesome thrash/death mix that from the get go kicks ass all around with speedy riffing and fast double bass drumming as well as featuring an awesome guitar solo. The best part of all though, is having the odd atmospheric/symphonic element added to the whole of the album, that especially makes it’s prominence known here and it totally works, which kicks so much ass! It seems that the first couple songs start off the album perfectly and then it hits a snag with a couple filler songs, then starts right back up with Testimony, Presence of the Dead with the killer main riff that is ultra-headbang-worthy, and Stigmatized which is probably the fastest and most brutal song on the album, as well as technical. I feel like the song structures are made in a the same manner as Heathen on Victims of Silence or Metallica on …And Justice For All, being a progressive and lead guitar driven balance with flashy type fantastic leads, as well as having a fairly slickened production value highlighting the instruments fairly well, which actually works when relying on atmospheric value on the album.
All the songs are fun in their own separate right, but some actually stand out whilst others are more filler material and don’t necessarily work as being a ‘great’ song but they are all still fun to listen to. That’s probably the only drawbacks on Testimony of the Ancients, having some filler songs and some weird and a bit annoying symphonic type interludes that don’t fit the album. The symphonic and atmospheric elements work perfectly in the actual fast and structured songs, but in the end the short little interludes are just annoying and totally skipworthy. Overall though Pestilence has struck gold with a perfect blend of jazzy progressive as thrash influenced death metal. I strongly recommend this to any fans of earlier Pestilence, Death, Cynic, as well as traditional death metal; it’s just straight up solid heavy metal.
Pestilence is one of those bands that don't have the biggest following but deserve and recieve a ton of respect. After the onslaught that was Consuming Impulse the band went through not only some personel changes, their sound shifted completely as well.
Consuming Impulse was fast and brutal, but wasn't a thinking man's monster necessarily. Testimony of the Ancients is definitely a thinking man's record. Patrick Mameli delivers an awesome vocal performance that is as worthy as anyone's really. The sound is reminscent of some of Chuck Schuldiner's early vocal work. As marked a change as this was at the time, the songwriting and musical approach the band took on was more progressive and at times very atmospheric due to the use fo keyboards. One need only to listen to "Twisted Truth" during the song's lead sections to get a grasp of what I'm talking about.
The songwriting is great. Pestilence can throw a curveball just as they can hammer a riff home for an extended period. "Lost Souls" has some great moments but really there are no bad songs here. "Stigmatized" is a great closer, although technically there is an instrumental outro.
The playing on here is not overly technical but tasteful and executed to perfection. The guitar tandem of the Patricks Mameli and Uterwijk complement each other telepathically it would seem as it is often difficult to distinguish who is doing what. Tony Choy delivers a fine performance, albeit a more subtle one than his stint with Atheist. Marco Foddis also suits the band well, without standing out over either of the dynamic guitar duo.
My only problem with Testimony of the Ancients at times is the record's structure. I've never been keen on segues and instrumental transitions and there are a ton on here. Some of them are cool, some of them are a bit of a waste of space, but if you can get by that this records stands as one of progressive death metal's innovative pioneers.
Two years after releasing one of the best death metal albums ever to surface from The Netherlands, Pestilence hit jackpot again with their 1991 album ‘Testimony Of The Ancients’. The biggest differences with their previous effort ‘Consuming Impulse’ are simple: The production is more clean, short intermezzos between all the songs, the average pace is lower and Patrick Mameli has taken over lead vocals.
The album is once again filled with those typical Mameli riffs which weren’t always too complicated or original. His song writing skills however are still very strong here. The average song on ‘Testimony’ is less furious and are almost AOD (adult-orientated-death metal) in a Schuldiner-light kind of way. Most catchy tunes are ‘Twisted Truth’ (the main riff has been copied and imitated by many, many other bands in the years to follow) and ‘Land Of Tears’ (to which a video was made). Fortunately there was also plenty of up tempo raging death metal to be found like on the songs ‘The Secrecies of Horror’ and ‘Stigmatized’
The clean production works most of the time but not always. Specifically on the faster material one would’ve preferred a dirtier sound. Same goes for the vocals. Mamelis vocals sound good on mid tempo material but they aren’t powerful enough for raging death metal. Secondly the omnipresent intermezzos between songs aren’t all of the same quality. It gives the album the impression of a concept album but it doesn’t always work out equally good. ‘Testimony Of The Ancients’ is a superb album but lacks the rawness and intensity of ‘Consuming Impulse’, therefore finishing second in the Pestilence discography.
Pestilence has had a well-deserved place in the first wave death metal elite, mentioned in one breath with the likes of Death, Sepultura, Cynic, Atheist and the likes. Rightly so, because their progression up untill this album is comparable to, say, Carcass. With every album they developed their sound so no release sounds alike but still stays Pestilence undeniably.
Their previous album 'Consuming Impulse' was unprecedented in brutality and morbidness. 'Testimony of the Ancients' is less relentless, but it makes up for that with an onimous dose of morbid melodies, great lyrics and an all out Lovecraftian atmosphere. Thanks to Tony Choy, the band has never sounded more technically accomplished. The drums aren't exactly Sean Reinertlike fast, but they hit all the right breaks. But the highlight of this cd is definately the guitars. Patrick Mameli and Patrick Uterwijk are a great tandem, combining melodic (twin) soloing with screeches and crashes of tremolo filled chaos.
Take for example the song "Land Of Tears". The guitar solo starts out very emotional, almost ballad like and then switches into high gear, so that all listeners who were dreaming away immediately abbandon all hope for solution of the saddening first guitar part. Noteworthy also are the supportive keyboard samples, never obnoxious, always morbid.
Other album highlights are the title track (with truly frightening and insane lyrics), 'Twisted Truth' with its catchy dynamics, 'Profetic Revelations' (excellent chorus) and well, basically the whole album is perfect.
Special attention to the final 'real' track (just like all Roadrunner releases from that era, this album sticks together with samples, which are all great by the way) 'Stigmatized'. This is death metal perfection, combining Slayer, Death and even Iron Maiden to create a masterpiece of metal.
Concluding, this is a must-have for all progressive death metal fans and for all who want to know who the true masters and originators of the genre are.