When Pestilence released their fourth album, Spheres, in May 1993, the death metal world responded, almost in unison, with a snort of derision. It seems ridiculous now that anyone could object to what was a wonderfully imaginative attempt to push extreme music forward, jazz inflections and all, but back then mainman Patrick Mameli was so far ahead of the game that he had to concede that the world wasn’t ready and Pestilence split in 1994. These days, of course, the band are back to playing something that strongly resembles the muscular, groove-driven brutality that made earlier records like Testimony Of The Ancients such essential listening. Meanwhile, the death metal that Patrick did so much to expand has travelled into realms of warped surrealism and avant-garde complexity that make Spheres sound like Slowly We Rot. It’s a funny old game.
The fourth Pestilence album since Patrick revived his band in 2008, Hadeon sounds as timely and subtly prescient as you might expect from such a creatively restless figure. This is polished and punchy modern death metal, but still underpinned by the Dutchman’s instinctive knack for textural and melodic disruption. Songs like Manifestations and Electro Magnetic exhibit plenty of old-school grit and spiky melodic motifs that reek of the early 90s, but there’s always something dissonant, disorientating or otherworldly lurking in the sonic background. As with 2013’s Obsideo album, the production here is crisp and precise, but there’s plenty of dirt under Patrick and new guitarist Calin Paraschiv’s fingernails as they spiral and scythe across a pinpoint rhythmic bedrock. Anyone hoping for some extravagant progressive flourishes may be disappointed to find that Hadeo boasts 11 sharp and succinct three-minute songs that are primarily riff-driven and devoid of peripheral fat. Yes, the days when Pestilence were miles ahead of the game are long gone, but they still sound unique, and from a much cooler parallel dimension than this one.