Review: Pestilence “Testimony of the Ancients” [R/C Records]

Review: Pestilence “Testimony of the Ancients” [R/C Records]

- in Reviews
Score 63%
Far from essential
63 %
User Rating : 4.8 (1 votes)

By the time the 80’s were over, several death metal bands tried to take death metal one step further and although bands such as Atheist and Death managed to do so with success (to a certain degree that is), things just unfortunately didn’t turn out too well for PestilenceTestimony of the Ancients isn’t an awful album by any means, but it’s seriously flawed, especially when compared to its predecessors.

First of all Scott Burns produced Testimony of the Ancients and while he did a great job with several albums, this unfortunately isn’t one of them. There’s something about sterile guitars that just doesn’t work for me although this album features new bass player Tony Choy (who clearly is a man of skill), his bass is hardly audible… that is, except during the interlude that goes by the name of “Soulless” – quite a shame if you’d ask me, but so be it. Patrick Mameli had taken over the vocals at this point and although it would be easy to criticize him for sounding more generic when compared to his predecessor, I don’t mind his vocals. Sure, he sounds somewhat one dimensional, but I’d compare Patrick Mameli to a more restrained John Tardy or a more muscular sounding Chuck Schuldiner and that’s good enough to me.

My main issue with Testimony of the Ancients comes down to its half-baked approach. It’s as if Patrick Mameli tried too hard to release something distinctive – but distinctive doesn’t always mean something good! You end up dealing with 8 (!) random interludes that range from random guitar licks to pseudo-gothic sound effects and more bizarre stuff, but most importantly: they all feel completely out of place. In terms of actual material, several unexpected breaks occur that prevent compositions from becoming too predictable and elaborated guitar leads have been injected that demonstrate Patrick Mameli and Patrick Uterwijk‘s talents. You’ll end up hearing several thoughtful, detailed yet restrained guitar solos that I’m certainly fond of. Make no mistake though, to call Testimony of the Ancients a transitional record would be farfetched, even if it’s hardly effective when it sounds pretty straightforward. “Lost Souls” manages to picks up in terms of intensity and pacing thanks to its violent main riff, yet hardly manages to compete with earlier Pestilence classics such as “Subordinate to the Domination” and “Out of the Body”. Then again, listening to the generic main riff of “Twisted Truth” and that sluggish main riff of “Stigmatized” doesn’t really recall a band that loves to play death metal anymore either, does it? It’s almost as if Patrick Mameli himself couldn’t wait to get to play one of those elaborated jazzy solos, because the riffs hardly sound passionate anymore.

It’s not until the last few songs before the album picks up to a certain degree, which seems rather strange to me, but so be it. “Testimony” has the advantage of being led by that whirlwind of a riff that’s convincing enough (even if the goofy keys on the background feel out of place) and that impressive, yet suitable guitar solo in between makes the icing on the cake. “Presence of the Dead” foreshadows the direction Death would take circa Human here and even though I could have done without that ambient break in between, it’s an acceptable song with some progressive touches to it. Ending the record on a high note, “Stigmatized” seriously kicks off by the time that flexible Iron Maiden-esque tendencies appears out of the blue and I guess you could call this one of the earliest examples of melodic death metal before the subgenre was even a thing.

Although you could do a lot worse, Testimony of the Ancients just doesn’t cut it and there’s no way I’d recommend it. Just give Malleus Maleficarum as well as Consuming Impulse a try if you haven’t already – those albums are the real deal.

Release date: September 6th, 1991

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