REVIEW: PESTILENCE – “Hadeon”
An underground favourite of every fan of late ‘80s/early ‘90s death metal, Dutch technical death metal visionaries Pestilence are building up to release their long awaited eight full-length, “Hadeon,” due out in the first week of March through the brilliant Hammerheart Records. “Hadeon” begins the next volume in Pestilence’s story. Originally starting as a thrash band in 1986, the Dutch musicians, led by Patrick Mameli, took a hard turn into death metal after their instantly classic debut, “Malleus Maleficarum,” releasing a trio of excellent LPs that cemented the place of Pestilence in death metal’s history books – peaking with their third offering, the utterly perfect “Testimony of the Ancients.” After an extended hiatus, Pestilence returned with another trio of albums – “Resurrection Macabre,” “Doctrine” and “Obsideo” – however, none of these albums seemed to ignite the fanbase in the same way as their classic material did, and Pestilence was once again put on hold in 2014. With this new era of Pestilence, what can fans expect?
It would be nothing short of slanderous to accuse Pestilence of releasing “more of the same.” Whatever your thoughts on the “reunion albums,” Patrick Mameli has always been an incredibly innovative and genius songwriter and musician. With time to allow the complexity to digest, it is clear that “Hadeon” is a record that celebrates the roots of Pestilence, with a somewhat rawer sound than could be experienced on later releases, and carrying a very old-school death metal vibe. However, it is also clear that Mameli is not just pandering to fans who want a rehash of “Testimony of the Ancients.” While very much rooted in the classic sound Pestilence is known for, the band make great use of the modern elements found in their found in the last three records. Listening to both albums back to back, “Hadeon” feels like a natural successor to “Testimony of the Ancients” – a fact many Pestilence fans will rejoice in.
Packing 13 tracks into a release under 40 minutes long, Pestilence have kept every track concise and under the four-minute mark. Kicking off with the short but creepy intro, “Unholy Transcript,” Pestilence build a spacey, sinister atmosphere almost immediately leading into the first “real” track, the crushing “Nonphysical Existence.” Though the song definitely has its share of techy/progressive flair, “Nonphysical Existence” feels much more like a straightforward old-school death metal track – breakneck speed, crushingly heavy and unnaturally catchy. Despite being the lead single, “Multi Dimensional” felt pretty weak when compared with the rest of the track-list, and stands as a largely unenjoyable track on an otherwise stellar album. The quality of “Hadeon” ramped itself right back up with “Oversoul,” bringing a much slower, pounding sound that is impossible not to headbang along to.
Building to the halfway point, Pestilence bring a deceptively thrash opening to “Astral Projection” – though a weird, sci-fi voice effect led by an enticing bassline takes over with another punishingly heavy, slowed down selection of riffs. Though not an immediate favourite, “Astral Projection” is certainly interesting and becomes a highlight of the album with each successive listen. Opening with a beautiful, bluesy lead section, “Discarnate Entity” soon changes course, ramping up the tempo into a hook-filled rager that leads superbly into the brief respite of the instrumental “Subvisions.” From here, “Hadeon” is a whirlwind ride of excellence, which a selection of brilliant tech/prog death in “Manifestations,” “Timeless” and “Ultra Demons.” Though album closer “Electro Magnetic” is a strong track in itself, perhaps “Layers of Reality” would have been a better final track. Arguably the best song on “Hadeon,” “Layers of Reality” blends the thrashy hints shown sporadically throughout the album with excellent old-school, subtly technical death metal in a hook-ridden package.
The last few years have been excellent for technical and progressive death metal. 2018 is set to be no exception, with “Hadeon,” signalling a glorious return to form from one of the genre’s forefathers. Pestilence have excellently channelled the creativity, technicality and complexity of their classic material, mixing it with the more straightforward edge they have developed in recent years. This combination makes “Hadeon” as crushingly heavy as it is imaginative, as accessible as it is complex, and, above all, brilliant fun to listen to.