One of the foundational acts of death metal, Pestilence began recording in the late eighties and started providing more complex, musically expository translations of death and speed metal ideas in several classic albums. With 1994's "Spheres" they spent their progressive urge in a highly technical but heavily synthesized album that gained little acceptance among death metal bands; declaring it a loss, the remaining members charged off bitterly into jazz fusion bands.

Malleus Maleficarum

Production: Reasonable, sort of chalky and flat but relatively effective.

Review: With the rhythmic heft of speed metal carrying the emergent textures and collisive riffing of death metal, Pestilence create unique song and melodic shapes around which to proliferate derivation and synthesis in highly articulated formations of motion and tone that convey an abstract sensation of experience to their hearing.

Pounding undulation of drums in the speed metal style matches cadence to a chanted vocal which is hoarse in the style of early Sodom more than death metal, howling a near-hiss of vocal overprojection, beating out the heartbeat tradition of speed metal/death metal in the crossover style of Germany in the middle 1980s. Lead guitars drift into experimental and death metal territory with highly chaotic solos that through the unconnected stimulate the fusion and regeneration of ideas in sound. While some riffs bear heavy metal heritage and many are familiar from second-tier speed metal bands, the grandeur of articulation is emphasized in scenario defining phrases which as in classical music are distinguished by their balance of harmony within melody more than coherence to a central harmonic structure.


1. Malleus maleficarum / antropomorphia
2. Parricide
3. Subordinate to the domination
4. Extreme unction
5. Commandments
6. Chemo therapy
7. Bacterial surgery
8. Cycle of existence
9. Osculum infame
10. Systematic instruction
Length: 38:29

pestilence malleus maleficarum (the witches' hammer)
Copyright © 1988 Roadrunner

Instrumentation and arrangement are precise and concepts stridently independent and resurgently antisocial in redefinition of social virus to match mental illness in the sublimated iconography subtextually encoded in phrase shape and song narrative. While each player contributes significant concrete and aesthetic fragments of the whole, of worthy note are the rigid and belligerent vocals of Martin van Drunen of the then-fledling Asphyx, which matching this declarative music drag a serrated edge of morbid reality relevant to the individual outside of social logic.

Consuming Impulse


Production: Generic, mediocre, sort of flat but allright.

Review: Advancing further into the death metal style grants this band more room to experiment with structure and in doing so, to affirm the strength within its songwriting and to use the assumption of that communication to further permeate a matrix of memes into listener consciousness which reassembled form the interlocking details that create symbolic representation of reality. Less strident and of consistent dynamic of tempo than its predecessor, this album through better production and more control of rhythm guitars portrays a heavier ambience as well.

Growth of technical riffing styles abounds, as in perpetuity a simpler pattern finds itself split and then recombined into a hierarchy of combat representing a theme, matched to wary drumming which lunges into direct blasts before returning to any of several states of jazz-style suspension based on double-hit principles. The guttural screams of van Drunen mark time and encourage the bounding rhythm to expand toward impact as labyrinthine songs culminate toward self-deconstruction.


1. Dehydrated
2. Process of suffocation
3. Suspended animation
4. The trauma
5. Chronic infection
6. Out of the body
7. Echoes of death
8. Deify thy master
9. Proliferous souls
10. Reduce to ashes
Length: 37:20

pestilence consuming impulse
Copyright © 1989 Roadrunner

Flickering fingers of fast harmonic technique foreshadow the obsession with pitch harmonics that would later inundate American bands, and within a series of tempo breaks Pestilence excel within the alternating rolling and explosive rhythms of death metal working itself toward unrighteous fury. Lyrics emphasize moribund topics and nihilistic acceptance of death as a cessation of consciousness, forcing the rawness of the experience forward in descriptive text with reasonable awareness of science.

While clearly still of the previous generation to death metal in that its speed metal intentions appear in riff rhythm and structures Pestilence transform their heavy metal origins here with the beginnings of a clearer obsession with theory, although the chaotic knowledge they seem to have absorbed favors metal styles more than imitation of a specific genre. Variation in tempo and texture colors theme with mood. In innovation perhaps early by some years, this band continued the art of death metal through articulate riffing programmed into effective sequences joining emotion to knowledge in will against death for the lawless and gentle gifts of creativity.

Testimony of the Ancients


Production: Pretty clear, sort of synthetic.

Review: Using keyboards well integrated within their technical death metal format Pestilence inject conceptual framing to their work in the form of an introduction to each of these eight songs, giving pause before their progressive hymns of evolving metal music. Crisp riffing and resonant melodic composition underscore the urgent and primal rhythms here calculated into layers of sequential thematic pairs.

Lyrically, this is a concept album which deals with "the truth of the existence of man" and has a few Lovecraftianisms as well, appealing to power and fundamental sources of vast change in the universe for a method of escape from the suffocating entropic sameness represented in the repetition of riffs before sacrifice. Its clean lines of lead guitar and offtime, cagily soft-footed tempo acrobatic between points of distinct impact, in framing the narrative of power chords and overlaid leads form an isolation to the piece while establishing coherence within.


1. The secrecies of horror
2. Bitterness
3. Twisted truth
4. Darkening
5. Lost souls
6. Blood
7. Land of tears
8. Free us from temptation
9. Prophetic revelations
10. Impure
11. Testimony
12. Soulless
13. Presence of the dead
14. Mindwarp
15. Stigmatized
16. In sorrow
Length: 42:58

pestilence testimony of the ancients
Copyright © 1991 Roadrunner

Much in the passage that Carcass undertook, Pestilence return closer to their roots in this halfway step toward jazz theory, rounding out their composition with a focus on depth in harmony and how to violate it to create crashing emptiness and angrily self-stalking doubt. Emphasis on lead rhythm playing and precise textures laced with harmonic accents and cadence shifts cements percussion as the central point of the new sound to this band, and while it suffices the drumming here lapses between technical segments and standard or very obvious patterning.

Simultaneous note playing and variation of chord shapes gives a softer edge and greater space to this music, making its feral rhythms colliding within an ecosystem of detail interaction resonate with isolation and vigilant emptiness. Power chords are used to stress essential points and mold context to each theme, but often lead work or harmonizing progressions anchor these progressive death metal pieces. The essential skill of making something lifelike from a metal riff, and linking these ideas to narrate epiphany, remains on the third album a primary strength of this band. Within the context of this armada of fast and inventive fretwork all blemishes become secondary to the continually growing art of Pestilence.



Production: Clear and synthesizer ridden without the real ambient space it needs to make that world. Compressed, greyed out.

Review: A prevalent jazz fusion and pride in newly-learned technical skills fronts this album as a near justification for experimentation in atmospheric metal and jazz harmony, turning the self-indulgent into a forum for great flexibility in vertical tone motion within metal/ Otherwise death- and speed-metal pattern riffs etched to the offtime precision rhythms of this band support its weight through diligent constructivism, linking idea and visceral reality with each change in a systemic butterfly effect of meme propagation.

Surreal in the breathtaking expansion of compositional fragments into coherent statement, this album achieves each slice of the metal existence from highest to lowest. Depth in harmony and pensive extended soloing hold court alongside explosive power chord riffing, mixing ideas through melodic continuity and an emphasis on the modes and harmonies of metal music. Of shock to many were the MIDI guitars used on this album which enable musicians to create from a guitar the voices of many instruments, leading to an absurdist collage of jazz-toned guitar and complex synthesizer nebulae drifting past in the endless night of expected rhythmic continuity.


1. Mind reflections
2. Multiple beings
3. The level of perception
4. Aurian eyes
5. Soul search
6. Personal energy
7. Voice from within
8. Spheres
9. Changing perspectives
10. Phileas
11. Demise of time
Length: 33:17

pestilence spheres
Copyright © 1993 Roadrunner

Self-indulgent in the way almost any music with a drop of progressive blood tends to be this music exceeds its own boundaries while reaching somewhat too far, and not achieving either end of its journey. Death metal interrupted by the soothing timbres of modern jazz instrumentation clashes with its own desire to disrupt, and the attempts of musicians to work freeform jazz within pop music formats as commonly occurs produces here a jarring and unsettling distraction. Sparse in arrangement of basic components, songs do not live up to the metal expectation of dynamic, yet fail to manipulate it further than on a basic level of intensity switched with a polar direction.

All things negative said, this album remains one of the premier items in the Pestilence discography for its ambition and the creativity of songwriting in fourth generation music from one of the founding acts of death metal. Its space rock and jazz influences become secondary to the nearly perfected diligence of riff building, making the utterly simple function for complex effect with all extraneous motion removed. In this and in the subconscious hope this album breathes a pained desire for clarity and normalcy within the intense alienation of death metal, yet in its musical language alone achieves it.

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