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Pestilence are a very well known band from the Netherlands. They formed in 1986, and over the next five or so years would release 4 albums that many consider to be death/thrash classics. This demo, The Penance, was the second of their demos, being released in 1987, the same year as their Dysentery demo.
The Penance starts off with a very eerie intro, titled "Into Hades". Consisting of a few guitars layered over each other and a little lead line, this is a pretty cool intro into the demo.
The next track, "Before the Penance", is where the music really starts. It is the longest, at 6 minutes and 48 seconds. It's a pretty mid paced thrash track in the beginning, that eventually speeds up. Never having heard this before, I was a little surprised to hear Martin's vocals on this, being pretty much clean. They're actually not too bad, every once in a while he'll let out a little harsh scream as well, which fits the mood of the song pretty well.
The guitar work is great on this release. The leads are very reminiscent of later death metal leads, and the riffs are often very speedy and thrashy. The songs on this are actually reasonably complex, considering it's a thrash metal demo from the mid 80's. There are a lot of pace changes, and the actual music it's self is relatively complex. The drums keep pace with the music well, and we do hear the signature drum sound of Pestilence shine through. Over all, the instruments sound great, are interesting, and are perfectly on time as well.
The production on this was something that actually almost impressed me, it's produced very well considering what it is. The drums, guitars, and vocals all stand out well, the bass is sort of buried at times however. Other than that, nothing really drowns anything else out, and it sounds pretty goddamn good.
Overall, I give this demo an 88%. It's produced very well, doesn't get boring, and gives us a little glimpse into what Pestilence would evolve into on their debut record, Malleus Maleficarum.
Being a huge fan of Pestilence’s early works, I figured I’ll get the demos and see what they were like. I was very happy with what I was hearing.
The production isn’t bad considering it’s a demo. Better than a lot of demos that I’ve heard. The guitars are pretty heavy. The drums are pretty flat though pretty much no power behind them but it’s not that big of a deal. The bass is really quiet and pretty much inaudible.
“Before the Penance” has some pretty heavy guitar work here. It starts out pretty slow then explodes into the thrash similar to stuff off their first album. If you’re used to his vocals on “Consuming Impulse” you’re in for a treat here. They are nothing like those vocals. Much more thrash style of vocals. “Affectation” is straight forward thrash from beginning to end. With a very heavy thrash break and a nice solo.
This demo is essential to how Pestilence evolved into what they became on their later albums. Not really any traces of death metal on this demo. I personally prefer Pestilence with some death metal feel to it but they still did thrash very well.
Best tracks – All of them
Most of these songs made it onto "Malleus Maleficarum" and may be discernable to those well acquainted with that particular album.
"The Penance" is a step up from their almost grindcore sounding "Dysentery" demo. This is thrash metal and very heavy thrash metal at that. I enjoy this demo enough to wonder why Pestilence didn't stick with the thrash metal side of things (Possessed, Sepultura) instead of picking up a distinct American death metal sound. The vocals here are a far cry from the Schuldiner sounding Malleus, with a more standard "gruff" thrash vocal. This music is excellent, almost more memorable and better arranged than their reincarnation on Malleus.
Recommended for the completist Pestilence fan and anyone obsessed with early Sepultura and Death/Thrash Metal in general.