CENTINEX – The Pestilence (2022)REVIEW

A general biography of a band like Centinex, a breed which are many extant but few worthwhile, will rightfully reinforce their initial decade-and-a-half run starting in 1990 as they’d crank out a handful of legitimate underground classics and slowly updated their sound beyond. What began as a primitive thrashing force would become a not-so-subtle admixture of mainline Swedish death characteristics, a bit of death/thrash, and a fair dose of early melodic black/death influence adding some serious dimensional reach to their best releases. Whereas many of their peers had one-offs or relatively short bursts of activity in their early twenties before burning out or moving on, the ‘legacy’ of Centinex bears the double-edged sword of being well remembered for their contributions to both the highs and lows of the 1990’s Swedeath learning process and the ungainly gentrification of the death metal sub-genre post-millennium. When the group reformed a little under a decade after disbanding I’d say it was kind of a typical return, over-polished and a bit blunt in contrast to the zeitgeist they were remembered for, which has since been reserved for the true spiritual succession in Demonical. They’ve done fine work hammering away at fairly typical ‘modern classicist’ Swedish death metal since, yet this latest four song MLP, ‘The Pestilence‘ mark a serious shakedown unto an entirely respectable, downright enjoyable vision of thrash metal influenced ‘old school’ death metal. This one seems like a group effort, a band enjoying the rehearsal room a bit more with a clear purpose and they’ve ended up making a real-ass heavy metal record as a result.

The Pestilence‘ is the fourth release from the band since they’d revived in 2014 and the second release from their current line-up which features members of Dead Awaken, Macabre Decay and Moth, folks who’d been around since the early 90’s extreme metal boon in Scandinavia and folks who are a bit newer to the realm. Set to bridge their previous album ‘Death in Pieces‘ (2020), which I’d reviewed somewhat favorably at the time, with an upcoming full-length this MLP release feels like a more direct stab at the true sound of ‘old school’ death metal compared to their previous three records. Honing-in on the brutal, mid-paced side of late 80’s thrash metal Centinex‘ maestro Martin Schulman seems to have directed this work with structures influenced by a certain classic era of Teutonic thrash metal. That means we’ve got some ‘Agent Orange‘-era Sodom on “Tremble in Fear”, some Protector circa ‘Golem‘ buzzing on opener “Armageddon” and even a few hints of the more Bay Area/Los Angeles influenced side of German thrash (Grinder, Exumer, Accuser, etc.) on certain parts of centerpiece “Evil is Evil”. Of course this translates closer to something like the first Pestilence album or certain Thanatos releases to start but either way it turns out to be a good fit for the more blunt, hardcorish roll of this line-up.

So, riffs then? Yep, if you’re a thrash buff who’d felt like the last couple of Centinex albums lacked any sort of tact, rhythmic ingenuity or energetic pulse this’ll be a straight kick in the ass in terms of steady-ripping speed and directive rhythm guitar threads. Yeah, yeah anyone can chug out a few implied thrash riffs and catch ears with ’em but these guys have keyed into the percussive nature of late 80’s thrash in an impressive way, wherein really clubbing at the transitions as if they are orchestral hits makes for a thrillingly performative moment which has some great precedence for the impact of early Swedish death metal as well. Generally speaking, classic thrash metal was fast as fuck and brutal but it was nonetheless patient in developing elaborate pieces meant to accentuate the heaviness of the act, these folks show some keen insight in achieving a result which avoid ‘face value’ death-thrashing by treating the rhythm section with a very slight spin on tradition.

The tremolo grinding stretches of “Armageddon” and mid-paced double-bass ride of “Tremble in Fear” speak directly to the heavier side of late 80’s thrash metal in transition toward the 90’s without going full-on Demolition Hammer extreme and I’d felt this type of arrangement goes a long way in presenting songs worthy of sticking in mind without obsessing over the riff-count and still resembling death metal rather than purist thrash. In order to pull this off they’ve had to keep the production warm, distortion levels eased (yet still crunched-over) with a far more down-to-earth render, an likely more ‘organic’ than expected result which allows for the tempo map to be fairly simple without becoming grating. For my own taste this turns out to be entirely worthwhile for the sake of achieving the right sort of classic, violent feeling on this MLP and it’d meant I’d gladly spun it several times over per listening session. Whether or not you agree with the band that “[…] the past was brighter than the future.” it is fair to say that they’ve made a completely convincing argument here and I cannot wait to see where they go with this approach. A moderately high recommendation (77/100).

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Pestilence
LABEL(S):Agonia Records
RELEASE DATE:April 1st, 2022

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