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Holland's Pestilence is generally regarded as one of the leaders of the late-'80s/early-'90s death metal scene, following closely behind Death as innovators in the genre. Combining elements of Slayer, Celtic Frost, Venom, and the Possessed, Pestilence was an underappreciated and short-lived outfit that, along with peers Sepultura, Atheist, and Morbid Angel, helped broaden and redefine the definition of death metal. Originally consisting of drummer Marco Foddis, bassist/vocalist Martin van Drunen, and guitarists Patrick Mameli and Randy Meinhard, Pestilence formed in the mid-'80s, and cranked out two excessively raw, garage-quality demos, Infected (three songs, 1986) and Dysentery (four songs, 1987). The group's promising and heavily Slayer-influenced combination of shifting double-time tempos, precise guitar work, and suitably morbid subject matter attracted the attention of Roadrunner Records, which signed the band and released its first full-length record, Malleus Maleficarum, in 1988. While the album was essentially a less-refined, altogether uglier version of German or Bay Area thrash metal -- defined by van Drunen's rapid, hoarse shouting -- it wasn't until 1989's Consuming Impulse that Pestilence found its creative niche. With Meinhard out of the fold and replaced by six-stringer Patrick Uterwijk, the group's increasingly impressive songwriting dynamics became tighter and more focused; while the band's rapid, precise tempo changes and nimble, downright evil-sounding, minor-key guitar work would help pave its ascent into the nether regions of death metal, it was van Drunen's newly developed, deranged, tracheotomy-patient growl that made the raw and highly entertaining record an over-the-top classic. (Van Drunen would later admit that his sub-par bass playing resulted in Mameli's recording all the bass tracks on Consuming Impulse, although the album's liner notes say otherwise.) However, mounting inter-band tensions found van Drunen departing Pestilence prior to the recording of 1991's Testimony of the Ancients, the frontman apparently not gelling with Mameli and Uterwijk's more progressive leanings. (Van Drunen would go on to front Dutch band Asphyx for three records, 1991's The Rack, 1992's Crush the Cenotaph EP, and 1993's Last One on Earth, as well as providing vocals for Comecon's Converging Conspiracies record (1993); he also fronted English death-grind mavens Bolt Thrower for a short time in the mid-'90s, although he never performed on any of the outfit's recordings before illness forced him out of the music business.) Mameli took over vocal duties for Testimony of the Ancients -- produced, notably, by famed Florida-based death metal knob-twiddler Scott Burns -- and the group recruited highly skilled bassist Tony Choy from Florida prog-deathsters Cynic (he also filled the bass slot for fellow Floridians Atheist for a while) for the album's recording and subsequent tour. A full-blown concept album, Testimony was a more technical, intellectual product than its predecessor, and featured the band's most refined musicianship and production values to date. Bored by the guttural, blood-and-gore stylings of an increasingly stagnant death metal scene, Mameli, Uterwijk, and Foddis -- who didn't hesitate to voice their increasing interest in jazz fusion -- put out a reactionary, uncompromisingly odd creation with album number four, 1993's Spheres, which featured new bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling. Wanting an atypical producer for the genre, the group tracked down Steve Fontano, who helmed the board for Cacophany/Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman's jazz/new age solo material, to co-produce the album. Boasting increasingly strange arrangements; off-kilter, jazzy rhythmic structures; and an abundance of synth-guitar textures from Mameli and Uterwijk, Spheres left most of Pestilence's fan base cold, and alienated the group from its label, which reportedly strongly disliked the record. Fed up with the close-minded atmosphere of the scene and industry in general, Mameli dismantled Pestilence shortly after the release of Spheres. Roadrunner would posthumously release Mind Reflections in 1994; essentially a record company cash-in, the album was a best-of compilation featuring tracks from all four Pestilence platters, a rare compilation song ("Hatred Within"), and six heretofore unreleased live tracks recorded at 1992's Dynamo Open Air Festival in Holland. Dutch label Displeased Records later re-released Malleus Maleficarum (which never saw a proper European release) in 1998 with the Infected and Dysentery demo cuts tacked on as bonus tracks. ~ John Serba
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  1.   Song
  2.   Blood
  3.   Chemo Therapy
  4.   Commandments
  5.   Soulrot
  6.   Subordinate To the Domination
  7.   Displaced
  8.   Obsideo
  9.   Absolution
  10.   Fiend
  11.   Devouring Frenzy
  12.   Testimony
  13.   Sinister
  14.   The Process of Suffocation
  15.   Dehydrated
  16.   Stigmatized
  17.   The Secrecies of Horror
  18.   Divinity
  19.   Multiple Beings
  20.   Suspended Animation
  21.   Distress
  22.   Hangman
  23.   The Predication
  24.   Lost Souls
  25.   Super Conscious
  26.   Necromorph
  27.   Synthetic Grotesque
  28.   Neuro Dissonance
  29.   Personal Energy
  30.   Cycle of Existence
  31.   Presence of the Dead
  32.   Bitterness
  33.   The Trauma
  34.   Prophetic Revelations
  35.   Out of the Body
  36.   Chronic Infection
  37.   Twisted Truth
  38.   Impure
  39.   Doctrine
  40.   Aura Negative
  41.   Changing Perspectives
  42.   Mindwarp
  43.   Bacterial Surgery
  44.   Dissolve
  45.   Osculum Infame
  46.   Amgod
  47.   Transition
  48.   Spheres
  49.   Salvation
  50.   Phileas
  51.   Y2H
  52.   Resurrection Macabre
  53.   Free Us From Temptation
  54.   Demise of Time
  55.   Horror Detox
  56.   Mind Reflections
  57.   Laniatus
  58.   Dehydrated II
  59.   Reduced to Ashes
  60.   Confusion
  61.   The Level of Perception
  62.   Systematic Instruction
  63.   Deception
  64.   Aurian Eyes
  65.   Soulless
  66.   Darkening
  67.   Voices From Within
  68.   Saturation
  69.   Malignant
  70.   Proliferous Souls
  71.   Extreme Unction
  72.   Land of Tears
  73.   In Sickness and Death
  74.   Parricide
  75.   Malleus Maleficarum/Antropomorphia
  76.   In Sorrow
  77.   Echoes of Death
  78.   Hate Suicide
  79.   Deify Thy Master
  80.   Soul Search
  81.   Infected
  82.   Against the Innocent
  83.   Delirial Live
  84.   Traitors Gate
  85.   Thorn of Death
  86.   Before The...
  87.   Affectation
  88.   Fight the Plague
  89.   Souless
  90.   Mind Wrap
  91.   Hatred Within
  92.   Multiple Beings
  93.   Mallevs Maleficarvm/Antropomorphia
  94.   Bacterial Surgrry
  95.   Before Them
  96.   Affection