Pestilence_ObsideoNothing burns with the same intensity as hate born of a once great love. While I worshipped early Pestilence albums like Consuming Impulse and Testimony of the Ancients, I hated their Doctrine release with the white-hot passion of a scorned fanboy. The dramatic back story to this epic tale of spurned love is a simple one. Pestilence began life as a primitive, old school death outfit and really had a lot going for them, but they rapidly evolved into a weird, proggy entity, freely dabbling in  jazz-fusion. I didn’t care for the paradigm shift and neither did many of their original fans. When the band reformed after 16 years in limbo, I hoped they would return to their roots, which they more or less did on the respectable Resurrection Macabre. Sadly, Doctrine found them delving into jazz-fusion and prog once again and doing so in an awkward, ham-handed way. As if this new, yet painfully familiar betrayal wasn’t bad enough, guitarist/vocalist Patrick Mameli added insult to injury by delivering one of the worst vocal performances in death metal history, spending much of the album wailing like a penguin in heat with an unlimited supply of HD penguin porn. After that dumpster fire, they’ve come back with a new bassist and drummer to reclaim some of the old Pestilence charm with Obsideo.

This time they offer a much more thought-out, well-integrated merger of their broootal death and their unquenchable affinity for  Cynic/Atheist styled prog and jazz elements. They even manage to recapture some long-lost elements of their early sound and that’s a truly unexpected surprise. I still harbor deep-seated resentments, but I’m forced to acknowledge this is way better, far more interesting and actually quite fun in a trippy, schizoid way. It certainly isn’t your typical death metal and it sounds quirky even by tech-death standards. Basically, it’s like a meth fueled Dance Dance Revolution marathon.

Pestilence-ObsideoPretty much every song is loaded with twitchy, jittery riffs that spiral and climb this way or that, loopy tempo shifts, off-kilter time signatures, sort of like Voivod meets Cynic, and oh boy, those solos! Most of them feel like pure jazz improv and they’re very unusual. The title track runs amok with stop-start riffing and frenetic drumming that keeps the listener off-balance and uneasy. “Displaced” features a Testimony of the Ancients vibe in the riffs, but only as a jump off point for all sorts of riffy lunancy. “Aura Negative” is based around a simple thrash riff which sends various permutations flying in all directions like a shaken bee hive.

Other memorable antics come during “Soulrot” with its Morbid Angel riffing that slowly drifts into the classic Pestilence sound, even evoking the Consuming Impulse days. “Laniatus” crushes with big death grooves and seems deceptively simple until it too wanders off into odd jazz leads and fluid, spacey solos.

For all their technical flair and musical chops, not every tune pulls off the tightrope act these boys have created for themselves. “Saturation” has ugly, creeping riffs, but lacks the herky-jerky, unpredictable charm of the stronger tunes. “Transition” also falls off the cliff and sounds like a bad remix of a substandard Fear Factory tune. The album’s first half is stronger overall and though things run a scant 35 minutes, a song or two could easily have been chopped.

Pestilence_2013Original guitarists Mameli and Patrick Uterwijk do all they can to rebound from the poor showing on Doctrine, and Obsideo is one big love poem to the power of wank. Though they lay a foundation of groove riffs, they run all over the map on each song. The solos they uncork are way better than before and even though they’re complete jazz tomfoolery and don’t quite gel alongside the death grooves, it’s always a blast when they appear (something that was NOT the case last time). Mameli’s vocals are also WAY better and apparently he listened to his performance on Doctrine and heard the error of his way. Here he sounds like a mix of Martin van Drunen and John Tardy and while he’ll never be my favorite croaker, he’s more than adequate here.

New drummer David Haly (Blood Duster, Psycroptic) is a Godsend and throws down a whirlwind of dynamic fills and rolls while laying waste to his kit in service of these hyper-kinetic nuggets of mayhem. I found my ears locking into to what the drums were doing way more than usual, and with so much else going on, that’s a testament to his performance. New bassist Geor Baier is also top-notch, but I wish he got more time in the spotlight to shine.

I’ll always pine for the olden days of Pestilence and I’ll never became a full-blown jazz fusion beatnik, but I enjoy Obsideo far more than I expected. I certainly hand it to them for taking the things that hurt them in the past and making them a strength. If you want to hear some really oddball stuff, this is it, but it might not be for everyone. Relationships (and jazz) are hard!


Rating: 3.0/5.0
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: pestilence.nl  |  facebook.com/Pestilenceofficial
Release Dates: Out worldwide on 10.21.2013

Share →
  • Francesco Bordoni

    I don’t know about this one, I heard ‘Necro Morph’ a few days ago, and it sounded quite crappy to me. This review surely inspired me though, I’ll give this jazz abomination a spin.

    • Necromorph isn’t one of the better tunes, but it did grow on me. This is definitely an acquired taste though and I’m surprised I like it at all.

  • Ben Nickless

    I checked out Necro Morph just to hear Dave’s contribution on drums (which are his typical top notch), but can’t get past Mamelli’s voice. Absolutely terrible vocals…… Deal breaker for me.

    • And he sounds considerably better this time too lol.

  • Kyungmi Nam

    I liked everything about this album but the vocals. Ew.

  • OzanCan

    Another DEATH metal album review? YEAH!!!
    :D

    • Realkman666

      They just hate powerfags like me. ;_;

      • We love all our peeps! Start listening to death metal tho….

        • Realkman666

          I bought the latest Amon Amarth thanks to you guys. It’s great, goes well with Völgarr the Viking.

          *though
          You scummy fucker.

  • Haralamboss Horn

    I personally love his voice

  • Shahir Chagan

    I’m always a sucker for ‘comeback’ records by relatively obscure bands that made excellent albums in the 80s and 90s, so seeing this caught my attention immediately.The vocalist sounds a lot like he’s trying to emulate Martin van Drunen… Still, it’s more distinct than the multitudes of bloated frogs and starving pigs that do death metal vocals today.

  • Steve

    I thought all their earlier prog/jazz influenced albums were good. Spheres is a very unique record in particular and it’s that part of their sound that made them stand out. Resurrection Macabre was hilariously bad and the last one was just boring in my opinion, i’ll check out a few tracks and see how it is.

  • Iommianity

    When did jazz become a catch all for ‘atonal’ or off time sections in metal? Pestilence have a lot of fusion elements at times, sure, but they never really went any deeper than Holdsworth anyways, and that’s pushing it. Unless you’re playing free jazz or purposely trying to sound atonal for effect, good luck making it in jazz playing completely random parts with no rhyme or reason, like the argument being made against Pestilence or any other prog death metal bands really.

    Sure, improv is a major facet of jazz, and so is improv according to the harmonic and rhythmic structure of the song, which act as the base for going off in different directions. The riffs aren’t jazzy, the drums certainly aren’t jazzy or subtle in any way, and having atonal solos or synths in the background isn’t jazz either.

    • The band themselves calls their stuff jazz and jazz fusion based, so I didn’t really know a better way to describe it other than the way they did. That said, you have some good points, but I do hear jazzy elements in their solos.

    • Daniel Kenneth Rego

      This. Any musician who actually PLAYS jazz will just laugh at the complete ignorance (and wishful thinking) with which the term ‘jazz’ is thrown around in the metal musician and reviewer community. Hilarious.

      • I’m certainly not a jazz expert or a fan and I certainly don’t play it. However, the band considers what they do to be jazz influenced and jazz fusion, so that’s how I described it.

        • Daniel Kenneth Rego

          Fair enough, and as a reviewer, you’re naturally inclined to take the band’s description of the music at face value. Although, like the previous commenter stated, any semblance the music of Pestilence has to jazz is very superficial, if at all present.