Pestilence - Malleus Maleficarum
Roadrunner Records
Thrash Metal
10 songs (38:19)
Release year: 1988
Pestilence, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Goat

Formed in 1986 before nearly all of their peers, before even Entombed and Nihilist, Pestilence are Holland’s finest musical export and still are a paragon of musical fearlessness, switching genres like other bands switch underwear. Their latest album may have split opinion, but few will argue at the veneration of the band’s debut, a blistering storm of Metal that is more Thrash than Death, Mameli and co. blasting through the ten tracks here with a heaviness and intensity rarely seen in either genre. Although the musicians are, of course, exceedingly tight and technical for the era (whatever his faults, Patrick Mameli is a damn good guitarist) it’s still a surprise just how much fun can be had here. Opening track Malleus Maleficarum/Anthropomorph blasts along like early Death itself before devolving into technical riff wizardry, almost mosh-happy sections mixed alongside the light speed vocal spits and post-Slayer wheedling solos. Araya and co. were clearly a big influence, although Pestilence’s sound is all their own, taking the speed and brutality levels even further. Parricide’s melodic intro soon turns to the sort of undignified blasting which suggests that the band took their speedy thrash influences and asked how they could improve on them before getting drunk and blasting their way through rehearsals in triple-time.

Well, improve on them they did. As brilliant as old school extreme metal is, it’s not known for its avant-garde variety, yet the last thing you could accuse Malleus Maleficarum of is repetitiousness. I’m sure fellow devotees of the style will be horrified at the mere suggestion – Subordinate To The Dominion, for example, is packed full of killer riffs, yet you never hear the same ones reused. Extreme Unction zips along like the band are possessed, barely over a minute long yet without a note out of place, even as Martin van Drunen (for it is he, prior to Asphyxian glory!) continues his vocal yelps before the solo is finished! Commandments, meanwhile, may have an acoustic bit at the start to keep wayward interests fixed firm, but soon builds into a storm of riffage that’s worthy enough to rival Britain’s Sabbat at their greatest, whilst paragraphs could be written about the burst of radioactive glory that is Chemotherapy. Every last cell in your body is pummelled to extinction by riff upon riff, glorious Thrash madness descending on the listener and erasing all resistance as you melt into a pool of ceaseless headbanging. The solo, slimily slowing towards the end, is highly effective, splattering across your aural windshield like the poor unfortunate from Robocop, leaving a messy carcrash and aching necks behind.

It should be pretty obvious by now that Malleus Maleficarum is a special album, but like many early releases from classic bands it can suffer when compared to later, more technically and structurally accomplished works. This doesn’t apply as much as you’d think here, mostly due to the fact that Mameli and co. friggin’ slaughter at what they do, but also, as mentioned, due to the kickassness of the music. I defy any reader not to lose each and every last piece of their shit to the likes of Bacterial Surgery, subatomic detonations of pure Death Metal awesomeness with enough time changes and tempo shifts to keep any listener as happy as the proverbial pig. Pestilence have always seemed to me to be a band made by Death Metalheads, for Death Metalheads, and sure, Malleus Maleficarum is more on the Thrash side, but there’s more than enough crossover appeal, and it’s worth remembering that whilst often forgotten when compared to bigger names from Sweden and the US, Holland had a thriving metal infection that continues to deserve far more attention than the little it woefully receives. I’d advise any reader new to the band to start with the remaster of this album, not least because the package contains the two 1987 Pestilence demos Dysentery and The Penance, and both are killer. Rawly produced, as you’d expect, but with enough kickass moments to fill a feature-length blockbuster, all are great bits of Death/Thrash that are simpler than the main album content with just as much ass-kicking value, yet it’s worth dwelling on final song Fight The Plague, speedy thrashing death brutality that blasts its way through your mind like that final bullet, leaving a messy reminder that few bands were this good ten years into their career, let alone on their early demos. As a whole, the package is more than recommended, it’s vital; a real classic that Thrash Metalheads often miss due to the Death Metal connections, and an album that Death Metalheads should own automatically.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Pestilence that we have reviewed:
Pestilence - Exitivm reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 100
Pestilence - Hadeon reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Pestilence - Obsideo reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Pestilence - Doctrine reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Pestilence - Spheres reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 8 reviews click here
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