March 5, 2018 Pestilence – Hadeon (Album Review)
The renowned Dutch technical Metal outfit Pestilence are back from their latest self-imposed break. After another sluice of lineup changes, the band has released Hadeon, thirteen tracks and nearly forty-minutes of an odd mixture of Thrash, Technical, and Death Metal. Originally released digitally in late January 2018, Hadeon now finds its way to physical CD on March 5, 2018, thanks to Hammerheart Records.
Originally formed with Patrick Mameli and Randy Meinhard on guitar, plus drummer Marco Foddis, the trio was soon joined by a young Martin van Drunen on bass and vocals. The band struggled to maintain a constant lineup; Meinhard left after one album, and van Drunen left after the second. Patrick Uterwijk replaced Meinhard on guitar, and Mameli assumed vocals along with his existing guitar slot. Tony Choy and Jeroen Paul Thesseling took turns playing bass, each recording one album on either side of a sixteen-year break. Stephan Fimmers (known for his work with Necrophagist) also took a turn at bass, and Tim Yeung headlined a rotating group of drummers.
For this new album, Mameli is joined by Drummer Septimiu Hărşan, Bassist Tilen Hudrap, and Guitarist Santiago Dobles, who is replacing long-time member Meinhard. In keeping with the well-worn Pestilence member carousel, Dobles has already been replaced by Calin Paraschiv after recording.
“Unholy Transcript” reads like the dark rumblings used to stir an ancient being out from slumber; there is almost a Nile styling here. The track quickly bows out in favor of “Non Physical Existent,” a serving of pounding Death Metal and relentless strength. The same progression repeats with only the slightest of variance, but the result stays brutal enough to keep the listener interested. Alternating guitar solos snake off near the end of the track. Much later on the album, “Layers of Reality” appears using a similar formula.
The first single from the album, “Multi Dimensional,” also follows this formula: pounding Death Metal with a clear path and an almost circus-like beat that revolves in search of a proper destination. Just when the track feels ready to fade off, some impressive solo guitar work takes over. A few tracks later, “Materialization” falls into this same trap; a straight-ahead hit to the jugular that ultimately leaves its technical aspects wanting; with strong solos slammed between pedestrian rhythm portions.
“Oversoul” is an extremely busy track; somehow everything from the metal shelf ends up making an appearance here, from Grind to Death to Thrash, with dusty technical portions that start with promise before falling awkwardly back to the pack. This track could be the one that stands to represent the album as a whole: complex rhythms shoe-horned next to each other with no common thread other than the overworked vocals of Mameli. “Astral Projection” includes an odd robotic voice for its verses, with plenty of space for organic technical playing that never materializes. Also largely forgettable is “Discarnate Entity”; airy guitar work serves as an introduction to a track that shares its siblings’ cries for advanced playing and musical technicality. As with earlier tracks, a decent guitar solo plays out to save the day.
New bassist Tilen Hudrap shines brightly on “Subdivisions,” in what is billed as the first solo bass outing on a Pestilence record since Thesseling recorded “Phileas” for Spheres. This track is crisp enough that it could easily make its way onto a Windham Hill compilation. Hudrap continues his talented work on the track “Manifestations”; the album could have begun with these two cuts and branched out with stronger material. The next track, “Timeless,” attempts to do just that, but unfortunately these few middle tracks end up as lonely beacons of direction before the confused monotony returns. “Ultra Demons” is another jaunty track that hits all of the technical ingredients, including robotic vocals, dashing guitar solos, and classical progressions, but the track as a whole is a bookend of filler.
This album is full of decent individual tracks including some absolute gems, particularly “Manifestations,” the two singles “Multi Dimensional” and “Non Physical Existent,” and the rollicking closer “Electro Magnetic.” However, overall there is little in the way of a clear narrative, and the album ends up being less than the sum of its parts (and its endless influx of new members). A largely flat mix does little to showcase any of the skill on the album, save for the guitar and bass solos near the center of the track-listing; the resulting tone leaves the chord and tempo changes a little too muddy to fully appreciate.
After countless lineup changes and numerous breaks, Pestilence may be returning to the strong footing of their early career. There are some great ideas mixed in here, but the execution and arrangement of Hadeon leaves the listener wanting a bit more. While even Technical Metal should never be too polished, the tracks here sound a bit too disjointed. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Hadeon by Pestilence a 3 out of 5.