Originally written by Matt Longo
The album begins with a deep ominous heartbeat that leads to desperately grasping air before we hear a monitor flatline. Sounds cliché, yeah? Well it could be, but this is not. Pestilence has been a critical reference point for progressing metal and this is no exception. Hear me out — not necessarily progressive metal like some synth-drenched velveeta and/or obscure 10+ minute song suites, but a dogged desire to never repeat the past. Here’s a rough abbreviated synopsis of their back catalogue, each with its own unique spirit:
• MM – First album; only album with drummer Randy Meinhard; debut of Martin van Drunen on vocals
• CI – More musical complexity; first release with guitarist Patrick Uterwijk; last album to feature MVD
• TOTA – Dabbled in synth; Patrick Mameli sings; album debut of Tony Choy; instrumentals abound
• Spheres – Way synthy; most divisive; less instrumentals; shortest album; introduced JPT
• RM – Reunion; the one where every song gets freakin’ NAMED; Choy returns
• Doctrine – Anti-religion album; JPT returns; Mameli goes crazy on vocals
• Obsideo – Well, read on, fucker…
So the Patricks have been together since Consuming Impulse, evolving their sound, creating works that are decidedly different animals, yet still part of the Pestilence catalogue. While one may marvel at their wellspring of riffs, a truly crucial aspect of Obsideo is a fully fresh rhythm section for the first time since their resurrection (macabre). Behind the kit is veteran skinsman Dave Haley (Psycroptic, The Amenta, Blood Duster), while the relatively unknown Georg Maier brings up the rest of the bottom end from the hoary depths of the netherworld.
21st-century Pestilence is less about speed outright and more about overall tonality, with only smatterings of jazz interspersed between brutal breakneck thrash and sickening serpentine grooves. It’s difficult to guess if Choy and Thesseling distinguished amidst the din because of their experience working with Pestilence in the past, or if their skills simply resulted in greater presence on the final mix, but one of the most surprising things of Obsideo is how much the new dude is buried. On the previous two albums, the aformentioned gentlemen certainly make their presence known — although you probably hear more JPT in just “Sinister”, “Divinity”, and “Deception” than you notice Tony Choy across all of Resurrection Macabre. Maier’s fingers are likewise adept and adaptive, whether strongly punctuating tracks like “Transition” and “Superconscious” or directly accompanying the riff as on “Soulrot”; he may be the reboot in the bass seat they’ve been looking for. It’s unclear how Dave Haley will factor in the future, being a couple of continents away and still in Psycroptic, but on Obsideo he lays a solid foundation for these daunting constructs. Check out the dozen or so paths crafted on “Aura Negative”…
Pestilence seek the sickest of riffs to tell the transformative tale of limbo between worlds, abandoning the physical and embracing the metaphysical, ”ripping the soul from the flesh” as they say in “Laniatus”. On their last album, Doctrine, they railed against organized religion in more of an overarching theme; whereas Obsideo more greatly succeeds by drawing the listener in to something inevitable. After all, you can ignore religion if you choose, but death awaits everyone. Pestilence ignites a visceral charge while simultaneously triggering the esoteric — as if punching you in the face while they discuss the nature of existence — and are among the elite who deftly execute this delicate balance. After double-digit spins and much consideration, it’s safe to say that Obsideo is the best Pestilence album of the last twenty years.