By Nathan, January,
Every death metal fan during the late ‘80s and
early ‘90s must have heard of Pestilence.
This classic band was one of the many to fall from grace during
the mid ‘90s when the death metal scene became saturated with mediocre
bands and the world (or at least America) had turned its ears to grunge.
Pestilence began in Holland in the mid ‘80s as a
brutal thrash band. The
lineup, consisting of Martin van Drunen (bass/vocals), Patrick Mameli
(guitar), Randy Meinhard (guitar), and Marco Foddis (drums), recorded
two demos before gaining the attention of Roadrunner Records.
These two demos, Infected (’86) and Dysentery (’87),
were pretty raw affairs, sounding somewhat like a cross between
Possessed and Schizophrenia-era Sepultura.
After signing to Roadrunner, Pestilence unleashed their debut
album Malleus Malficarum in ’88, further refining their
approach to brutal thrash. Although
the album was considered a “try out” for the label, the new material
was tighter and more focused than the demo material, and was a killer
But before long, guitarist Randy Meinhard left the
band to pursue other musical avenues.
His new band, Sacrosanct, went on to record three albums:
Truth is, What is (1990, classic old school thrash), Recessed
for the Depraved (1991, focused and mature thrash), and Tragic
Intense (1993, haunting and depressing thrash).
Their debut was released on No Remorse Records while the latter
two were on 1MF Records.
Meanwhile, Pestilence had acquired a new guitarist
by the name of Patrick Uterwijk. And
in 1989, the band released its second album Consuming Impulse.
Gone were the days of thrash!
Consuming Impulse was a full transformation to death
metal. From a musical
standpoint, things got much heavier and more haunting.
And vocally, Martin van Drunen moved away from the cleaner vocals
in favor of the sick, twisted, acidic growling everyone has come to
But a lineup change occurred once again.
This time, vocalist/bassist Martin van Drunen left to front a new
band. That band was Asphyx,
one of the kings of doom-death metal.
Filling in for the departed original vocalist/bassist Theo
Loomans (RIP), Martin went on to record the classic monstrosity The
Rack (1991), as well as the Crush the Cenotaph EP (1992) and Last
One on Earth LP (1993), all of which were released on Century Media
Records. Martin also had a
brief stint in the death metal band Comecon, providing vocals on the
band’s second album Converging Conspiracies (1993, Century
Media Records), which was the band’s best album both vocally and
musically. Word had it that
Martin also formed a band called Submission, supposedly with Randy
Meinhard. It is uncertain,
to me at least, whether or not this is true, and if so, what the band
Pestilence was faced again with the challenge of
replacing a member, being without a vocalist and bassist.
So while recording their third album Testimony of the Ancients
(1991), they enlisted bassist Tony Choy, who at the time was playing
with technical death metallers Cynic, who were in their demo stage.
Patrick Mameli then took over vocal duties and with this lineup,
released the album and toured for it.
At a time when death metal was exploding from various regions of
the planet, Testimony of the Ancients was probably the album most
people became familiar with first.
The new material wasn’t as abrasive and twisted as the previous
album, but the band’s musicianship continued to grow, the direction
became even more focused, and the album had the best production job of
the band’s catalog.
But Tony was really never a permanent member, and
ended up going back to Florida to hook up with Atheist and help fill in
the bass slot recently vacated by bass-god Roger Patterson (RIP).
Tony helped record the band’s second and third albums for
Death/Metal Blade Records: Unquestionable
Presence (1991) and Elements (1993), respectively.
Meanwhile Pestilence enlisted the talents of Jeroen Paul
Over the years, the Pestilence guys were getting
into other forms of music, primarily jazz-fusion.
And after Testimony of the Ancients, the band wanted to
cross jazz-fusion with metal. Plus,
for their fourth album they wanted a different kind of
producer…someone who wasn’t familiar with metal music.
But the band received negative responses to their new material,
and ended up choosing Steve Fontana, who had worked with guitarist Marty
Friedman. Finally, the
fourth and final Pestilence album, Spheres, was released in 1993.
With every album, Pestilence went through some kind of a change.
And Spheres was no exception.
Pestilence mixed jazz-fusion elements into their patented death
metal style, and through the heavy use of synth guitars throughout the
album, they created a new and unique approach to death metal…something
the genre needed at that point in time. However,
the new musical direction alienated many of the band’s fans.
Roadrunner didn’t like the album, especially the US office, and
refused to support the band. Subsequent
touring also proved to be troublesome.
Pestilence’s popularity had risen with the release of each
album, but unfortunately, so did tensions between the members.
So after a short period of time, the band unanimously decided to
call it quits, feeling they had reached their “creative climax”.
In 1994, Roadrunner was kind enough to release one
last CD from Pestilence: a
best-of entitled Mind Reflections, containing tracks from all
four albums, plus the extremely rare “Hatred Within” (originally
released on the Teutonic Invasion Part II compilation) and six
unreleased live tracks recorded in at the Dynamo Open Air Festival in
1992. More recently, in
1998 Displeased Records re-released the debut album Malleus
Malficarum (which originally never saw an official release in
Europe) including both demo recordings from ’86 and ’87.
Without a doubt, Pestilence remains as one of the
greatest classic death metal bands.
The late ‘80s/early ‘90s death metal explosion was a special
time in musical history, and Pestilence was a special band.
So where are the guys now?
Martin van Drunen, after doing a few recordings with Asphyx,
joined up with Bolt Thrower, filling in for original vocalist Karl
Willets. But Martin was
diagnosed with Alopecia, an illness that caused the loss of his hair.
Not feeling up to the task of performing live in this state, he
left the band prior to the recording of Mercenary (1998).
What has he been up to since then?
And did Submission really exist?
Randy Meinhard, as previously mentioned, did three albums with
Sacrosanct before disappearing. Anyone
heard from him lately? Tony
Choy, of course, played in Atheist until their demise.
Rumors had it Tony was playing in Caribbean cruise ship bands
lately, but may make a return to play on a new Atheist album.
Anyone have any more information?
Patrick Mameli lived in the US for a short while after Spheres
before returning to his homeland Holland around 1995.
Getting back into music, Patrick was done with metal, due to his
overall frustrations with the scene, and wanted to concentrate his
efforts on jazz fusion. At
one point he had a project named Gestalt, which he described as being a
cross between jazz, fusion, trance, ambient, and the doomy atmosphere of
Pestilence. But he’s been
quiet lately…so what’s the deal?
The other members of Pestilence, Patrick Uterwijk, Marco, and
Jeroen, were rumored to be involved in various jazz-fusion bands, but
does anyone know for sure?
If you have any information relating to Pestilence,
of if you have contact information for any of the members of Pestilence
(and Sacrosanct), by all means please email me (email@example.com)!!
I would also extremely appreciate any information on Submission.