(This is TheMadIsraeli’s review of the new ninth album by Pestilence, which is out now on Agonia Records.)
Patrick Mameli is a musician in the extreme metal music space I’m often conflicted about.
One one hand, I think he is an absolute genius. What he’s created with Pestilence and continues to do under the Pestilence banner never has been replicated convincingly, and probably cannot be replicated. He has an unparalled command and mastery, both as a guitarist and as a songwriter of dissonance and chaos. Pestilence is one of the few bands out there (and the only band that does it the way they do it) who completely shun away from conventional melody while using a jazz bent to create a twisted brand of death metal that I can only say sounds like what it feels like to experience real and severe mental illness and terror. There is a pathos to Pestilence that is undeniable.
On the other hand, he’s a guy who’s routinely had some really fucking stupid takes — a bit of a COVID denier and, given Pestilence’s lyrical content, on some occasions maybe an entertainer of other conspiracies (and btw, Patrick is free to reach out for an interview or to comment down below to clarify if I’m wrong). It could be said that by giving Pestilence’s latest album Exitivm a review I am platforming his bad ideas. If you’re someone who has a distaste for him for these reasons, I’m not gonna fault you for bypassing this album. But I am finding myself in a position where I value the art produced here more than the fact its creator has some bad takes, which unfortunately is a rather common occurrence among musicians. If I’m being honest with myself, I can’t really in good conscience deny the validity and power of his music just because of this.
See, the thing is, unlike some other cases such as people like Phil Anselmo (where many bands have surpassed Pantera at their own thing and many people do his vocal approach better), I can’t do that with Pestilence. There are no Pestilence clones, or soundalikes, or in my experience anybody who’s ever done what they do even half as well. If I want this particular style of jazz-infused progressive death thrash I HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS BAND. But I figure my expressed disapproval of some of Patrick’s past opinions here should be enough for people to understand that my endorsement of his art isn’t at all an endorsement of some of the edgier ideas he’s expressed.
With that said, the thing about Pestilence as a band and Patrick Mameli as a musician is that it’s a project of pure uncompromising integrity. It always has been, but I think this is actually a thing about the band that has gone VERY under-recognized and under-appreciated over the years. Except their venture into eight-string guitars on Doctrine, an album I praised very highly in my Higher Criticism series on Pestilence, the band have played on six-string guitars tuned to regular old standard tuning. Doing this in 2021 is already a pure rejection of the modern death metal zeitgeist, especially the way modern deathcore influenced the paradigm in terms of guitar tuning standards. Death metal has been tuning lower and lower for the most part.
The other thing about Pestilence is that their music has an unusual and paradoxical element of cacophonous precision. There is A LOT going on, mostly because a trademark, especially on the last few albums, has been a commitment not only to hammering away at gargantuan dissonant oppressive sinister guitar riffs with the vicious glass shards of Steinberg signature guitar tone, but also a commitment that whoever is Pestilence’s drummer at the time will engage in some outlandish completely fucking excessively noisy chaos that shouldn’t even fit the riffs. I point to the opening of “Mortifervm”, and actually its entirety, as an epitomizing example of this. I doubt you will ever hear a band besides Pestilence write a song that sounds like this.
Another thing about Pestilence, especially on this record, is MAN do they fucking groove. The verse of the record’s lead single “Morbvs Propagaionem” just snags you, not only with a bizarre chromatic siren song riff and its eerie harmony, but also with the excessive double bass underneath it all, combined with Mameli’s bath salt snorter in a straight jacket vocal style. The album’s second track “Deificvs” is another great example and is also a particularly great display of Mameli’s commitment to his riff writing. Every riff on Exitivm, no matter how nonsensical it may appear, sounds like every single note was meticulously deliberated upon.
Of course, groove is not all this album has going for it. Thrashier songs that call back to the band’s early work, like “Sempiternvs”, “Internicionem” or “Immortvos”, showcase a diversity of song type on this album that feels particularly inspired. There are so many rhythmic variations and ideas on this album combined with the flurry of technical riffing that this record in particular feels like the apex of post-Resurrection Macabre Pestilence.
Not only is Exitivm one of the absolute best Pestilence albums in the band’s entire discography — arguably in the top three — it is also an astoundingly powerful and brutal album that has a sonic identity that will be all its own this year. This is usually the case with a Pestilence album, but in Exitivm‘s case we’re talking about an exceptionally twisted and merciless display of their brand of metallic carnage. Definitely a must-listen album of the year for me, and I hope for others.