‘You people are cancer! Oooooh, grrr, argh… okay, I’m not in a good mood now’.
I have to admit it – right off the bat, the soundbite (taken from the Internet’s most hilariously-deluded conspiracy theorist Alex Jones) had me in stitches and prepped more for a grindcore album than anything else. Did I download the right one? This isn’t Agoraphobic Nosebleed, right? Clicking straight into a groovy but tightly descending technical death-metal riff, Pestilent Reign are quick to assert that is absolutely not the case.
Martyr brings forth rasping roars that conjure up old-school hardcore bravado and guttural slam gruffness which brings an interesting duality to the tremolo-heavy assault. Hailing from South Germany, they’d feel equally at home here with a grooving but surgically-precise aesthetic that nods heavily towards Australians Psycroptic and Devolved. Keeping strictly to the party line, the track doesn’t waver too much into flowery instrumental theatrics. Judging by the snarling, epic and elastic feel of the opening track, that’s more than OK with me. A breakdown over clattering typewriter double-kicks rounds out a track which would have heads and limbs swinging furiously in the pit.
You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood sees growler Christoph Sauner pig-squeal and snarl the track’s title over thunderous backing. Now we’re treated to a slam-tastic section that pays close homage to Dying Fetus, just as before Lars Hagele cuts through with that industry standard sweeping tremolo and – yep, here we go – a very tasty breakdown section. Sebastian Unic on skins is more than happy to either blast hard or ride the cymbal and kicks like it’s a local surf break.
Saviour breaks in with a very tight whirl of leads that conjure up a feeling of Egyptian pharaohs stomping recklessly about the palace with camo shorts on. Without pandering to the recent trends in death metal, Mick Figura keeps things on bass from spilling over into grandiosity, instead scraping and digging hard alongside the riffage with a tone with more bite than vintage cheddar. The watertight rhythm section dances with a classic power-chord chug, vocals snapping and snarling between both like manic junkyard dogs. It’s a run we’ve all heard before, descending into a very cool twisting turning technical riff more serpentine than a secondhand car dealer. As the solo ascends playfully and falling back into a melodic breakdown straight from Sweden, the whole deal is feeling less like an urgent need for showmanship and moreso an intricate and much faster ode to At The Gates.
Ouroborous decides to keep this tradition going, wrenching pinch harmonics and dissonant chords in between the speedy groove-laden chug-fest. Deeper growls than before demonstrate an ability to stray from the usual raspy ‘foetus fanaticism, but things quickly go back to slam-death worship.
A sinister little aside riff with a black metal screech here, a far deeper growl once more, followed by almost bluesy shredding, and then a riff that just begs a sense of hidden intent and urgency. I’m not sure where that come from in context, but it was a great, original flourish amongst an ever-familiar wave of riffs.
Cleanse the Filth stomps straight out of the gates in a now-predictable fashion. Fortunately, there’s enough interplay between mid-tempo and interesting albeit short-lived technical runs that skitter off as fast as they came. That’s the point of this album, I believe – in a day and age where everyone in the death metal scene is trying desperately to outplay each other in terms of technicality and progressive experimentation, sometimes dudes like Pestilent Reign are having way more fun keeping fast, tight and in homage to their forebears.
Take our next testimonial for instance. Zealot plays with just enough accuracy and dynamic flair, flipping around quickly but adequately with precise runs, squeals and tradeoffs to keep them with one foot in technical territory, whilst also adhering strongly to slammin’, thrashin’ and riffin’ like a drunken street brawl. The end product is something which is both palatable for time-signature-obsessed tech boffins and the meatheads shoving them out of the way, beer in hand for the open-floor breakdowns. Once again, a truly and shamelessly unique moment pries open the track into an epic militaristic outro riff.
I.M.R.T.M. brings home the bacon with some pig squeals and the now-stock-standard format ascribed to in the previous tracks. This one is especially careful not to let the pace falter at all, which juxtaposes perfectly with Zealot. This is the track that’s churned out when everyone in the pit is looking tired and the band themselves are gasping. A super-fast head kick with some almost Eastern tinged harmonic arpeggios, cavernous drums and clanging, punchy bass tremolo. Damn, guys. I’m not asking you to be the newest thing under the Sun, but you certainly have some moments of real originality here which deserve some more limelight in between the psycroptic-foetus groove-fest.
Gutter’s Filth ramps the ante up to ten for one last display of violence. Cranking up the intensity to ten, Pyres is breathed new life as an absolutely nefarious blackened progression flits between the usual technical, slamming barrage. A mid-section which feels more like Pantera throwback than a breakdown fistfight is fortunately blown away by urgent leads, prowling bass and blasts. I was afraid they’d just kind of trail the album off with some over-extended bro-friendly slam, but instead they trail out with their own sinister feel.
All in all, ‘Pyres’ is nothing you haven’t heard before, but is so much fun, it’s done so well and employs skilful flirtations with the full spectrum of slam and tech-death dynamics. Moments of original flourish, between vicious worship of the genre’s bloody idols, cements Pestilent Reigns’ debut as one which offers huge potential for the future.
Purchase Pestilent Reigns new album here: https://risingnemesisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pyres