From auspicious thrash metal beginnings, which earned them a deal with Roadrunner Records, to a spot-on death metal transformation, which turned them into a genre pioneering phenom, PESTILENCE is alive and kicking after decades since its fateful inception in 1986. Labeled on the same genre-defying scale as Death, Cynic and Atheist, but also Obituary and Deicide, with whom the band shared the same label-home throughout the 90s, PESTILENCE exists as an influential, innovative and distinctive player, despite a turbulent history featuring two breakups (in 1994 and 2014) and reunions (in 2008 and 2016, respectively). The band’s binding factor and leading creative force throughout all cycles has always been founder and guitarist Patrick Mameli. The latter had this to say about the signing:
“Pestilence and Hadeon Records [the band’s own imprint] are very excited to be joining forces with Agonia Records in an exclusive, worldwide agreement to explore new pathways in writing history together”.
Mameli is currently the sole original member of PESTILENCE, whose input blazed the trail for generations of progressive death metal. But he wasn’t alone at that. The band started as trio comprising Mameli, Randy Meinhard (guitars) and Marco Foddis (drums), later joined by another death metal legend, Martin van Drunen (similarly to Mameli, currently the sole original member of Apshyx). This line-up continued through two full-length albums (with the exception of Meinhard, who was replaced by Patrick Uterwijk shortly after the band’s first album, “Malleus Maleficarum”, in 1988). Out of the two, the second album, “Consuming Impulse” (1889), was the beginning of all things great for PESTILENCE. Introduced into Decibel Magazine‘s hall of fame in 2013, the album marked PESTILENCE‘ shift from intense and raw-sounding thrash to heavier, more haunting and then-buzzing death metal. Not only Martin van Drunen‘s vocals turned to acidic growl; PESTILENCE was boosted into international recognition, being at the forefront of the scene with Death, Obituary, Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower and Autopsy.
Faced with the necessity of replacing a member, after van Drunen‘s departure to pursue a career with Asphyx, Mameli enlisted another famed musician, bassist Tony Choy (of Cyinc at that time), and took over vocal duties for good. Together, they recorded “Testimony Of The Ancients” (1991), nowadays regarded as a death metal classic. The material wasn’t as abrasive as previous works, and the musicianship clearly matured, while the album boasted refined production thanks to Scott Burns of renowned Morrissound Studios, Florida. The demand for PESTILENCE elevated as never before, and was followed by massive touring and a legendary performance at Dynamo Open Air.
Eventually, Choy, who wasn’t a permanent member, left the band and returned to Florida to play with Atheist. He was replaced by Jeroen Paul Thesseling (later a member of Obscura). With this addition to the line-up, PESTILENCE released “Spheres” in 1993. It was their last album for Roadrunner Records, yet first to incorporate jazz fusion elements into their death metal landscape. Needless to say, the album was ahead of its time. Underestimated at first, the bold conjunction of genres presented on “Spheres” paved the way, and later on influenced a lot of bands, including Gorguts, Necrophaigst and Obscura. At the same time, the album divided the band’s fans, with some recognizing it for the stroke of genius it was.