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

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