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

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