I could almost imagine Inter and the others at the It Djents Editorial™ seeing this album cross their desks and sending it to me with a note reading, “You’re old. Review this. You’re welcome.”
Pestilence are sort of a Cynic-light. They come from the same era and musical tradition, the dawn of death metal. Pestilence were always more brutal and less technical than most other techdeath bands. Their musical syncretism had an industrial feel to it (e.g. Testimony of the Ancients and Spheres) rather than a jazzy one. That, and a 14-year hiatus stymied their popularity. Pestilence is also one of those bands with only one real member. Guitarist/vocalist Patrick Mameli is the only one who survived all the lineup changes. The current roster is 2016 vintage.
Hadeon, Pestilence’s 8th album, is scheduled for a March 5 release. At 13 songs in 40 minutes, the songs are decidedly Spartan by techdeath standards. Indeed, the whole album has a very minimalist feel to it. Its pure-and-simple sound would not have sounded out of place in 1993 even though it clashes greatly with that year’s Spheres with its industrial space sound.
Opening track “Non Physical Existent” has a standard, swirling main riff and a swift beat that betrays 80s metal’s debt to early punk. It could have been off of any of the first three Pestilence albums. “Multi Dimensional” starts to suggest a more techy sound while remaining within safe death metal bounds. The song has some dissonance in its riffs, but the tempos stay steadily fast. The solos have a pleasant and airy feel to them.
“Oversoul” re-introduces Pestilence’s predilection for industrial dissonance, varying tempos, and tricky guitar work. These features make it Hadeon’s early standout track. “Astral Projection” continues in this direction at first, before abruptly entering Pestilence’s unique mid-tempo ambient mode, one with vocal effects that even Cynic fans would find cheesy. “Discarnate Entity” returns to less weird territory, with a lurching main riff and another one that recalls the opening track in style.
“Subvisions” (sic) is Hadeon’s ambient bass solo song. Between the gongs and the ringing keyboard chords, Tilen Hudrap shows some creativity. Older fans who remember when Tony Choy (Cynic, Atheist) was in Pestilence might find it underwhelming. The song leads into the standard death metal track “Manifestations.” That latter song has some odd-sounding beats near the end, but that would be its only interesting technical aspect.
“Timeless” is one of the shortest true songs (2,45s) on Hadeon, but it has a lot of notes both in terms of the song’s speed and in terms of its riffiness. This, plus Mameli’s aggressive growling make it the album’s second-half standout. “Ultra Demons” and “Layers of Reality” seem grossly ordinary compared with the rest of the album, showing Pestilence as not above writing filler tracks. The album ends with “Electro Magnetic” (again sic — Patrick Mameli does not seem to know how to hyphenate). They wrote this song for the mosh pit, though it has fast passages and ripping solos to boot. It does not quite measure up to “Timeless” and “Oversoul,” but it ends Hadeon on a suitable note.
Pestilence never went “full weirdo” like Gorguts, nor into ultra-brutality like Cryptopsy, nor to Archspire levels of excessive riffiness. They always lay within reach of mid-period Death with some quirky Voivod-ish dissonance. Hadeon stays within Pestilence’s chosen comfort zone. It might not be very modern and it might not be the most challenging listen out there. But if any techdeath band has a right to feel they do not need to push any envelopes, this would be the one. Hadeon is worth a listen for the standout tracks and for a pleasant reminder of a simpler techdeath era.
Notable Tracks: “Oversoul”; “Timeless”
FFO: Death, Gorguts, Voivod, Cynic