Levels of Perception

I have reviewed quite a lot of Pestilence albums on this site, as well as reviewing their various reissues multiple times and over the years I would consider main axe grinder/vocalist, Patrick Mameli, as a friend, with our various interactions.  I respect his musical work and songwriting skills and many of the Pestilence albums I do consider groundbreaking in many ways.

When a band decides they want to re-record a collection of their songs and put it out as an album, it can be a dicey affair, due to the ardent supporters of the band living and breathing the band’s music for years.  It’s one thing to re-record an older song and place it as a bonus song on an album, such as Suffocation who have been re-recording each of their Breeding the Spawn songs for some time now and each new version ending up on a new Suffo album and their re-recorded songs, are quite excellent.

This is not always the case though, for example Exodus re-recording their classic debut Bonded By Blood with the Let There Be Blood album to showcase, Rob Dukes, their vocalist at the time.  I also remember main man Gary Holt going on record as saying it was not meant as a replacement of that album, but rather an updated version of what the songs have morphed into, when played live, now.  The production on that release and musicianship were quite great and Dukes did nice vocal work, however, the album was unnecessary.  Missing was the evilness of the original recording, as well as the atmosphere.

As a whole, the only band, I feel who have crushed their old stuff with a re-recording would be Cuba’s Gothic/Black Metal act Mephisto.  They have recently dropped the re-recorded album of their 2000 debut Carpathian Tales, as well as re-recording a bunch of songs from their 2016 second album Reborn from Ashes.  This new version of Carpathian Tales destroys their prior material in terms of brutality, production, musicianship, songwriting and is now easily the best release the band has ever released.

I love Pestilence and Levels of Perception, even before its release started a wave of flack for the band.  As IM sure you heard, Pestilence opted for an album cover done with A.I. art and capturing each band member, on the front, in some sort of biomechanical cartoon design.  I actually thought the cover was pretty cool, but the metal scene went out and blasted the band and the band retracted the album cover and replaced it with a cover with live shots of the band and if you did not know any of this, would think this new album cover was a live concert recording.

Pestilence ultimately wanted their music to get out to the masses and did not want an album cover to detract from buyers etc..But I gotta be honest here, while I was looking forward to hearing new renditions of classic Pestilence songs, I could not have been more let down.  This collection of songs is stripped down in terms of production and reimagined quality.  The sound is quite rough, sounding more like a rehearsal tape, and lacking power.  Just what the F is going on here, has been my thoughts ever since listening to this and a multitude of fellow writers feel the same.  Take for example “Out of the Body” off the amazing 1989 Consuming Impulse album.

When Patrick put Pestilence back together and put out the stunning 2009 comeback album Resurrection Macabre, if you were lucky to score the deluxe version, the band re-recorded 3 classic songs, one of which is “Out of the Body”.  That newer version, while it did not best the original, was updated in sound and Patrick sounds fantastic on it and the song is played with a lot of power just like the brand new songs on the album.  Then this re-re-recorded version of  “Out of the Body” is devoid of power, although Patrick sounds better on this newer version than the 2009 version, because he continues to get better as a vocalist, which I love.

Another classic song from Consuming Impulse, “Dehydrated”, is marred by a lack of power, but also some of the timing is changed with vocal phrasing and drum patterns.  “Dehydrated” happens to be my favorite Pestilence song of all time and the new stop-on-a-dime drum patterns in the very beginning are a bit off putting to these ears, but the slow down moment with the “Vultures Circling in the Sky…lyrics-one of the best parts in all of death metal, is changed and not for the betterment.  The weird drum signature time changes during this slow part and the differing vocal pattern, has me scratching my head.  Patrick’s vocals do sound great, but the slight variation in phrasing and drum patterns makes this song sound like it was more of an unfinished product, with the band working through the kinks, before an official release.

“Multi Dimensional” is a terrific song from the 2018 Hadeon album and this version sounds similar, but when this newer version is placed next to the original things like the production and power are truly evident and the various tweaks in the structure are negligible at best…I’m unsure about the inclusion of this song and “Horror Detox”, from that wonderful comeback album in 2009, is re-recorded here, again lacking in power and conviction from the truly crushing original.  Not every album here is represented with re-recordings, such as their 1988 killer debut, Mallevs Maleficarvm, maybe that is for the best.

All in all, unless you’re a completist, I’m unsure re-recording songs, in this manner, with low production/power qualities and some questionable structural changes, is something the die-hard Pestilence fan is going to want to listen to.  The original songs in all of the above were untouchable.  Maybe newer Pestilence fans??  I don’t know, these re-recordings, of terrific songs, are not my thing at all.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
April 22nd, 2024


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