Reviewed: [June 2021]
Released [2021 Agonia Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
I pretty much lost the thread on these guys a long time ago – like in the early ‘90s, to date myself – when the jazz odysseys began to enter Pestilence’s death/thrash metal picture and the band split up for the first time. Their subsequent 2009-2013 comeback albums did little to garner any renewed interest given the band’s continued stylistic divergences, and the fact that they split up again in 2014 barely registered.
When mainman Patrizio Mameli resurrected Pestilence for a third go-round and took an old-school turn with 2018’s Hadeon, it seemed more of an act of desperation than anything else. So when the promo for Exitivm arrived with Mameli sporting yet another completely new supporting cast – this time featuring bassist Joost van der Graaf (ex-Dew Scented, ex-Sinister, Cypher), guitarist Rutger van Noordenburg (Bleeding Gods) and drummer Michiel van der Plicht (Aran Angmar, ex-God Dethroned, ex-Dew Scented) – the bar was set pretty low for it to say the least.
But while Exitivm largely sticks to the old-school tech death/thrash approach of Hadeon, it is a better-executed, more inspired effort that certainly is not lacking in conviction. The material here is largely direct, compact and pretty damn feisty. And it is delivered with vigor by the, umm, reinvigorated band, led by Mameli and van Noordenburg’s slashing riffs and crunching hooks and Mameli’s bug-eyed rasp.
Once Pestilence hit the launch button here, after the obligatory symphonic intro “In Omnibvs,” it’s pretty much all-ahead full. The fast and furious, super hooky “Morbvs Propagationem” and “Deificvs” lead things off, and the band carry that momentum the rest of the way.
There are few flights of fancy on Exitivm – in spite of the latin titles – other than the fiery leadwork from Mameli and van Noordenburg. The progressive pretensions that have long been the band’s Achilles heel are notable in their absence. And when things do take a more adventurous turn, as on the industrialized, almost Voivod-like “Immortvos” or the swooping “Sempiternvs” they don’t stray far from the album’s core sound. If anything, there is something of a lack of variety on Exitivm. But this is one time I’m not going to complain about that.
Pestilence seemed to be pressing the reset button with Hadeon, and the album lacked spark as result. There is no shortage of that here as new blood and old school make for a combustible combination. But given the band’s history, enjoy it while you can.