Monday, December 21, 2015

Pestilence - The Dysentery Penance (2015)

It's kind of shocking that The Dysentery Pestilence hasn't happened until now. I mean I remember tracking down bootlegs of the Dutch veterans' demos long ago, so obsessed was I with their early LPs, but always wanted the material in some 'official' format. A desire which Mind Reflections, the Roadrunner compilation released in the 90s, was all too happy NOT to oblige. Now, in 2015, once it seems that Pestilence has gone defunct yet again (possibly for the best, but who knows), we are presented with both their original 1987 demos pre-Mallevs Maleficarvm, a couple of live tracks added on, and the whole shebang remixed by Dan Swano for Vic Records. Sounds like a plan...

Obviously, the tunes here are more oriented to the thrash metal which informed their Roadrunner Records debut Mallevs Maleficarvm, only with the first demo you've got Patrick Mameli doing a more straightforward, bruising vocal style over riffs that HEAVILY remind me of Slayer circa Hell Awaits, especially in tracks like "Delirical Life". They really hadn't gone that extra step of clinical development which cultivated those morgue room aesthetics on the first full-length, so we have a cruder riff-set that channels more of a West Coast US feel than even the more neighborly German thrash scene of that era. Volume has been brought up here, and it sounds almost like a basement gig of some crossover/thrash band in places, but you can hear some of the churning even in these early riffs which would influence later stuff, especially Consuming Impulse. That said, this doesn't really elevate beyond that garage speed/thrash level which hundreds of bands were creating in the mid 80s, and the songs leave no lasting impression even if they're appropriately abusive..."Throne of Death" is probably my favorite among them, a solid mid-paced thrasher with the riff that feel closest to me to Mallevs Maleficarvm.

For The Penance, they had acquired Martin van Drunen, and a more forceful, impactful riff set that, while not entirely in the ballpark of what they'd accomplish later, invokes a lot more anger and headbanging and probably took just as many cues from Exodus as Slayer. "Before the Penance" is a straight mosher, for example. Now, this is the earliest example of van Drunen's vocals I'd ever been exposed to, but you can already hear that unique, grotesque tone of his, only the vocals are a little thinner and not so brutally pitched. Some of the riffs in "Affectation" and perhaps a little in "Fight the Plague" were modified or borrowed wholesale to create tunes on the following full-length, and as you can already guess from my fanboyism of the first couple Pestilence records I would be much more inclined to visit this demo again than their earlier material. It's just more dynamic, evil and memorable, and while it won't stand out against fully formed bands releasing label efforts in '87, it's solid.

All in all, this was a decent acquisition for Vic records, and now that the Dutchmen are on hold (maybe for the last time), it's nice to be able to complete the cycle of their discography. The tunes aren't new to me, but Swano's mix elevates the material to a level just that you'd be rewarded with if you had previously fumbled around the underground for copies of the tapes. It's brought down by the average first demo, and the two live tracks (both tunes from The Penance) sound like shit, so I can't recommend it unless you're an enormous fan of Pestilence who must have everything. If you're entirely new to Pestilence, then any of the first three albums will serve you much better, or if you're not one of those anti-reunion slags, Resurrection Macabre probably won't let you down, it's a great amalgamation of their earlier sounds into a more punishing modern studio context.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

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