Pestilence Between Technical and Memorable

Pestilence Between Technical and Memorable
Photo: Stefan Schipper
Dutch death metallers Pestilence pushed the limits of their style by moving into more progressive territories with 1993's jazz-influenced Spheres. The band called it quits soon after, returning 15 years later with the brutal death assault, Resurrection Macabre, followed by 2011's Doctrine, which saw Pestilence delve back into the world of jazz fusion. Now, main man Patrick Mameli and company unleash Obsideo, marking their seventh album and third since reforming. Featuring equal parts brutality and technical elements, the record combines the two styles to create a focused, balanced release. In a recent interview, Mameli discussed the new album, working with long-time guitarist Patrick Uterwijk and new members, bassist George Maier and drummer Dave Haley (Blood Duster, Psycroptic, the Amenta). He also talked about the evolution of Pestilence's sound, why they disbanded years ago and maintaining a balance between technicality and memorability.

Was there a specific musical direction that you had in mind for the new record, Obsideo?
Just to play the most brutal Pestilence album. We like to keep our music clean from contamination of other extreme music. So the direction will always be looking ahead and not looking back. This is our best album yet.

Pestilence features some new members, bassist George Maier and drummer Dave Haley. What kind of impact did they have on the record?
They both are great guys and musicians. Their impact on the album is immense. Their input was very important for the way Obsideo turned out. I have stated it many times: less practice before recording makes things more magical and fresh.

While other members come and go, you've worked with guitarist Patrick Uterwijk for a long time. How has it been working with him all these years?
He's a very good friend of mine, even though I don't see him that often, we share the same passion and that's Pestilence. We always hang out and discuss new material.

What was the writing and recording process like for Obsideo?
Not very different from all the comeback albums. We share info through the web and that's it. I compose most of the riffs, but with Obsideo, I knew I could let go more and give the other guys more freedom to use their creativity.

Why did you decide to produce this record yourself?
I have always, since [1989's] Consuming Impulse, produced my own albums. Who knows best than the composer? I was in the studio 24/7 to guide the engineer Christian Moos, who did a great job, by the way.

Pestilence started out as a thrash band, then moved to death metal and then incorporated more progressive, jazz fusion elements. Have all of the changes in the band's sound come about naturally? Or was it a conscious decision?
What is conscious and what is naturally? Hanging out with the guys from Cynic and Atheist just opened up our brains to that [jazz fusion] stuff. But we were never that technical, just influenced by it. We knew we wanted to play more brutal all the time.

The band went on a 15-year hiatus following 1993's Spheres. Why did the band break up?
We were fed up with the record company [Roadrunner] and somewhat with what the scene was evolving into. The scene was flooded with death metal bands and the record company didn't put that much effort into us anymore. We were forced to take action, gave birth to Spheres and called it a day.

How do you feel the band's sound has evolved over the years?
I always want to keep the the style fresh, yet keep my atonal approach in my chords. We certainly have become better musicians, that helps [laughs]. But sounds come and go through the years with new equipment. But I keep my equalization pretty much the same.

While 2009's Resurrection Macabre was more brutal death metal and 2011's Doctrine was more progressive, Obsideo is the perfect balance between the two. Was that intentional?
One always wants the perfect balance between brutality and musicality. Obsideo comes closest from all albums. I'm very happy with the brutality this sound has.

While Obsideo features technicality, it never goes over the top. How important is it to maintain a balance between technicality and catchy, memorable riffs?
I have never wanted to go over the top, I feel a song needs to be a song and not showing off just to show off. Songs with more than ten riffs, I already have my doubts about. I do like for example [Ron] Jarzombek's stuff though [WatchTower, Spastic Ink, Blotted Science], it's intricate yet still heavy.

Some fans prefer your straight-up death metal stuff, while others prefer the more progressive stuff. Then there are people who prefer the '90s material to the more recent albums. Is this maddening for you?
I think with us constantly changing our own approach to Pestilence music, it must be difficult to like all of our material, but I think Obsideo is a good balance between old and new.

Lyrically, is there a specific theme behind Obsideo?
The journey of the human soul, after leaving the body. Different spectrums are being explained in a brutal way.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
We appreciate all your attention for the new Pestilence album. Let's enjoy this one.