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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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Top Songs by

  1.   Song
  2.   Testimony
  3.   Transition
  4.   Obsideo
  5.   Horror Detox
  6.   The Secrecies of Horror
  7.   Prophectic Revelation
  8.   Reflections of the Mind
  9.   Omens of Revelations
  10.   Into Hades
  11.   Before the Plague
  12.   Saturation
  13.   Distress
  14.   Necromorph
  15.   Aura Negative
  16.   The Predication
  17.   Doctrine
  18.   Divinity
  19.   Confusion
  20.   Y2H
  21.   Neuro Dissonance
  22.   In Sickness and Death
  23.   Hangman
  24.   Fiend
  25.   Devouring Frenzy
  26.   Multiple Beings
  27.   Changing Perspectives
  28.   Spheres
  29.   Voices From Within
  30.   Soul Search
  31.   The Level of Perception
  32.   Multiple Beings
  33.   Mind Reflections
  34.   Osculum Infame
  35.   Cycle of Existence
  36.   Chemo Therapy
  37.   Commandments
  38.   Extreme Unction
  39.   Subordinate To the Domination
  40.   Mindwarp
  41.   Presence of the Dead
  42.   Soulless
  43.   Prophetic Revelations
  44.   Free Us From Temptation
  45.   Land of Tears
  46.   Darkening
  47.   Twisted Truth
  48.   Salvation
  49.   Lost Souls
  50.   Malleus Maleficarum/Antropomorphia
  51.   Phileas
  52.   Fight the Plague
  53.   Displaced
  54.   Blood
  55.   Searching the Soul
  56.   Throne of Death
  57.   Super Conscious
  58.   Soulrot
  59.   Affection
  60.   Sinister
  61.   Dissolve
  62.   Deception
  63.   Amgod
  64.   Absolution
  65.   Synthetic Grotesque
  66.   Hatred Within
  67.   Traitors Gate
  68.   Demise of Time
  69.   Personal Energy
  70.   Parricide
  71.   Reduced to Ashes
  72.   Proliferous Souls
  73.   Echoes of Death
  74.   Out of the Body
  75.   Chronic Infection
  76.   The Trauma
  77.   Suspended Animation
  78.   The Process of Suffocation
  79.   Dehydrated
  80.   In Sorrow
  81.   Stigmatized
  82.   Times Demise
  83.   Systematic Instruction
  84.   Laniatus
  85.   Deify Thy Master
  86.   Malignant
  87.   Delirical Life
  88.   Aurian Eyes
  89.   Dehydrated II
  90.   Bitterness
  91.   Pat & Pat
  92.   Bacterial Surgery
  93.   Impure
  94.   Against the Innocent
  95.   Testimonial Ideas
  96.   Hate Suicide
  97.   Resurrection Macabre