Released: 2009, Mascot Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
I’ve been waiting patiently for the return of Pestilence for a long time. CONSUMING IMPULSE and TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENTS were godly albums from death metal’s heyday in the early ‘90s. The Dutch 4-piece had a knack for writing heavy, mature riffs and was part of the burgeoning progressive metal scene, alongside stalwarts like Atheist, Cynic, and Believer. 1993’s SPHERES was a bloated mess that seemed only to show how much technology and programming can’t replace songwriting. The band separated shortly thereafter, with each member of the band going their separate ways. Vocalist/Guitarist Patrick Mameli opted to pursue jazz and fusion as a struggling musician in his native Holland for a number of years before returning to the metal scene with the abysmal C-187 project. So when Mameli announced that he’d be resurrecting Pestilence, I was both excited at the prospect and immediately concerned.
Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, RESURRECTION MACABRE is classic Pestilence in every sense. Mameli has opted to forget that whole SPHERES incident, crafting 11 new songs that rest comfortably between the CONSUMING IMPULSE and TESTIMONY era. The disc offers less in the way of progressive elements and refocuses the energies back on the band’s more organic death metal influences. It was a move I wasn’t expecting; even as good as the band’s more traditional material is, it’s a bold regression to make considering the genre associations now made with the Pestilence name. In filling the additional roles in the band, Mameli made it clear from the get go that this wasn’t any kind of reunion. Original drummer Marco Foddis hasn’t been involved in the music since the band originally split, and original bass player Martin Van Drunen was never an option. However, TESTIMONY bassist Tony Choy has come back for the ride, along with Darkane drummer Peter Wildoer. Though not featured on the album (Mameli plays all the guitar parts himself), longtime guitarist Patrick Uterwijk has returned to the band at least for live gigs.
RESURRECTION MACABRE is a raw, angry slab of death metal. “Devouring Frenzy” is chock full of thick guitars and a more guttural vocal presence than we’ve heard before, but is immediately recognizable as Pestilence. “Horror Detox” has been available through various outlets for a while and is a faster, old school number akin to classics like “Echoes of Death.” “Fiend” has some interesting escalations in the main riff that creates an impending sense of the foreboding. “Dehydrated II” offers both a nod musically and conceptually to the band’s own history, as does the tempo shifts in the title track; slow and methodical but capable of hitting top speed in a blink. “In Sickness and Death” is the closest you’ll get to the aforementioned progressive influences, with its disharmonious layers of guitars scaling up and down. A limited edition version of the disc has 3 re-recorded songs from the band’s catalog; “Chemo Therapy”, “Out of the Body” and “Lost Souls.” Especially as Van Drunen originally provided the vocals on “Chemo Therapy” and “Out of the Body”, Mameli’s take gives the songs some new life.
As much as I like RESURRECTION MACABRE, it’s not without its faults. In opting for a more brutal approach to the songwriting, Mameli has all but stripped the guitar solos out of the equation. They’re here, but certainly limited in comparison to scope and frequency when he was trading off with Uterwijk. Mameli was always the more gifted of the two, so I kept waiting for him to rip into some leads that never came. Vocally, Mameli’s deeper performance seems a little one-dimensional in comparison to the throaty inflections that used to be his trademark. And Tony Choy is nowhere to be heard. To bring such a talent back only to bury him in the production is beyond counterproductive, it’s just foolish.
While not exceptional, RESURRECTION MACABRE is a promising return for one of the truly classic names in death metal. Should Mameli opt to continue for another album, there’s certainly room to grow, but this isn’t a bad place to build a new foundation. Either way, it’s good to have Pestilence back – now how about a North American tour?