Pestilence - Testimony of the Ancients (ROADRUNNER - LP 1991)
It is undeniable that when you start to listen to all three albums that Pestilence has recorded between 1988 and 1991, you realize that within these three years the band has constantly been changing and none of these three parts of their death metal trilogy sounds the same. The constant evolution, along with revolution that came with the third album, was this band's trademark sign. And "Testimony of the Ancients", is by far their greatest achievement and finest hour, in my opinion. This was also the very first death metal album with Death's "Leprosy", that I've listened to and it was in 1991. So looong ago, but the best thing and something what only confirms the quality of "Testimony..." is that after 20 years, this album still sounds unbelievably fresh and devastating to my ears, each song still is able to crush my ears and honestly I still cannot find any signs of boredom! This is PERFECT album.
"Testimony of the Ancients" is very specific album, one which I think at the time of its release must have arise a lot of controversy. Not only the album brings much more technical style of playing, clearly influenced Cynic and Atheist, but also it fuses death metal with the atmosphere of progressive music. I don't even know if something like progressive metal existed then, but there were albums which were slightly changing the narrow barriers of death metal – I’m talking about the bands like Tiamat, Nocturnus, Paradise Lost... And also Pestilence, who not only used keyboards in so many parts of their third album, but also had some riffs with almost kind of melancholic feel, which differs so much from the usual brutal and extreme death metal playing. Finally, "Testimony of the Ancients" is kind of concept album and all songs are basically connected together with each track preceded by a short instrumental passage - some of these interludes sound really weird, but nicely develop and underline the overall atmosphere of the album, so they do fill up the album well.
Speaking of the death metal, "Testimony of the Ancients" offers some of the best tracks of this genre I've ever heard! I must be honest with you, the riffs and melodies Pestilence played here are immortal, they'll never get old and also what I like about them are the emotions they bring. Some riffs may be just pure aggression, but some other parts are truly emotional and visionary, very melodic and harmonic. The best example is I think the song "Lake of Tears", an undeniable hit from this album, which some of you may recognise from excellent video that was aired on MTV years ago. It starts with an aggressive and fast, purely brutal riff, but somewhere in the middle the song turns into something completely different, it slows down very much and the riffing turns into very deep and emotional, wonderful melody - one, which I find as breathtaking!
"Twisted Truth" is slightly psychedelic at times, but it also has wonderful, melodic guitar leads that are so memorable and engaging! What I like about it, is that even if this song is slower and more experimental, it is also aggressive anyway, due to harsh vocals of Partick Mamelli, who took over the role as the vocalist and turned out to be a fuckin beast, his voice is savage and raw, damn aggressive, but also quite understandable. I must say I like it a lot and am not even able to tell whether van Drunen was better or not, as both growlers had their own and unique style of “singing”.
But to make it clear, this album is not only about the progressive and melodic playing. "The Secrecies of Horror" will hit you with vicious riffs and this is one of the fastest and most energetic songs on the album - and even the keyboards are rather fillers to the riffs rather than play the main role. This is excellent song really, but my favorite from the whole album is "Presence of the Dead". Fuck, what an awesome track, what killer riffs! They're so damn catchy and possessing I can't stop listening to it and banging my skull is just necessary. Pure excellence. "Lost Soul", "Prophetic Revelations" or "Testimony” are another songs worth to be mentioned, but I can be honest and say that truly the whole album deserves to be mentioned, as everything here is amazing and none single riff or whatever are masterpieces. And they all surprise with some excellent and memorable parts.
I think there are no words that I can use and which would really be able to describe this album’s all details and give them a justice. Too much is happening here and there are too many layers in this death metal cake. So I think the best thing to do is just listen to "Testimony of the Ancients" – switch the lights off and let the atmosphere of it possess you. I must advice to open the mind a little bit, as some of the parts of "Testimony of the Ancients" may sound too progressive to the orthodox death metaller, but that’s what this album has done in the time of release… it was breaking the death metal skeleton and all the limits. And it did it perfectly. Truly "Testimony of the Ancients" is one of the best albums ever.
Standout tracks: “Lake of Tears”, "Presence of the Dead", "The Secrecies of Horror", "Lost Soul"
Final rate: 100 / 100