Survivalist fortitudes built over the course of the final generational wars find humanity stubbornly divided into four sects, each hitting the ejector seat on an uninhabitable Earth as we step into the latest portal provided by Liège, Belgium-based progressive/technical death metal band Pestifer, who divine the sordid fates of endtime mankind in four tragedian suites. ‘Defeat of the Nemesis‘ is a best foot set forth as the band push for unreal pyrotechnic events that’d best serve an emboldened voice to narrate this imaginative short-form science fiction tale. Long-standing champions of classicist yet ever-evolving death metal spheres, we enter the realm of this quartet expecting a far-out approach which keeps its human touch intact and they quickly deliver a wholly representative record, succinct and fastidious in its impressive reveal.
Pestifer have long been an underrated band who’ve consistently made their own headroom in the modern yet classicist progressive/technical death metal mind palace. Their music is an amalgamation of taste in the surreal and technical extreme metal reach which spans the length of the sub-genre niche’s notoriety, or, pulls from different eras and forges a unique prog-death identity of it. The locus is key as the early 90’s ‘old school’ prog-death influence lends a virtuosic yet confrontational bent to their work which is comparatively far more active in its general rhythmic intent, closer to the composition and cadence of Anata, Augury and perhaps certain Obscura releases. When it comes time to observe the guitar (and general rhythm section) technique of the band we find that certain releases are braced with influences from the short-lived technical thrash metal boon of the early 2010’s as well as psychedelic/atmospheric death metal of that same era. Of course this is my own way of summing an additive procession, the gist of it is a modern yet ‘old school’ form of death metal which is as adventurous as it is brutal, rooted in the psychotic dance of tradition while making their own go of it.
Familiar style forged to an impeccable standard is -part- of the appeal of ‘Defeat of the Nemesis‘ but the way that they’ve used this palette to construct a dark science fiction aesthetic and narrative helps to pull the mind beyond the zeitgeist of prog/tech death and into their ultra post-apocalyptic endgame. The concept of this particular mLP, which appears somewhat related to their third full-length (‘Expanding Oblivion‘, 2020) is a big part of why it’d stuck in mind beyond the first four or five listens. The way it is described on paper, perhaps a bit too plainly, is that as a not-too distant future Earth becomes entirely unlivable four colonies each resolve to their own separate exoduses from the planet. Each song represents a colony, a tragedian tale for the final dregs of human civilization which you’ll need a lyric sheet to appreciate. The appeal here is more in the situation and the imaginative stroke of the events rather than the profundity of the lyrics themselves, their vision is ambitious and their music (and glorious album art) read as appropriately involved in order to reflect the tumultuous events herein but thankfully this release feels contained and measured as a ~25 minute introduction to the band’s current high-set bar for involved tech-death structural feats and expressive prog-death panache.
That’d be the bigger point to make here as ‘Defeat of the Nemesis‘ really does need to be a big showing for the band as they step into a much larger reach per Debemur Morti and begin to land more festival gigs, not only do these pieces need to pull the customer in but they’ve also taken on an emboldened voice which should read more readily in live performance. This should generate some interest for anyone who’d felt like ‘Expanding Oblivion‘ had its stylized identity down pat, technique for days, but hadn’t quite mastered any sort of ear-worming quality. Pestifer haven’t necessarily simplified their sound, though, as we find some of their most effective use of jazz fusion influenced leads (see: “Defeat of the Nemesis”) and rhythms (“Draconian Daemon”) to bring a playfully aggressive throttle unto moments which’d otherwise melt within the flurry of it all. The band mention Opeth and even Sweven (see: “Astral Agony” b/w “Elysium”) as pieces to add to the greater puzzle of their speeding forth and increasingly dialed-in finesse and this speaks well to the organische sensibilities of the composers, choosing their mysterious grooves and flurries of mathematical feats carefully so that ‘Defeat of the Nemesis‘ reads as a distortion of human handiwork rather than purely alien or AI-generated craft.
While it’d make sense to dig through each piece and pick out favorite riffs, several astonishing bass-driven runs, and the brutal brilliances of drummer Philippe Gustin throughout it’d be cumulative well enough to highlight “Draconian Daemon” as perhaps the piece to send the mind reeling over the top, a great argument for what Pestifer are all about set to an eight minute boss fight theme. The fusion’d touches, tech-thrashing whips, and angular (later) Anata-esque quirk create an abundance of character within the piece which is soon (~2:55 minutes in, especially) bounding and blasting in its head bobbing-and-bangingly cut rhythms. It manages to outdo the epic finale of ‘Expanding Oblivion’ to some degree as they break the tension built with an extended solo as the song more-or-less slow fades with a repeat of its main verse.
If you are already a fanatic constantly in the thick of the progressive and technical death metal spheres this mLP might feel more like a teaser, a showcase for bigger things to come, and an intentionally introductory work that puts Pestifer‘s best face forward. I would lean a bit more on the side of “We don’t get shit this good very often.” and suggest that this is as directly appealing, sonically rich and thrillingly performed the quartet’ve been to date. The succinct nature of the EP format only lends more repeat listens to the many-pocketed tunnel of the full experience and the concept was just enough to get me to buy a copy and fiddle through the lyrics interested to see which colonies survived and how. Beyond the clear value of the death metal music herein, the packaging and artwork (per David Caryn) is aesthetic enough that they’ve more than justified the luxury of a 12″ picture disc with a stare-worthy image. A high recommendation.
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