In that context, my primary critique may sound strange. While listening to Doctrine, I was struck by how it seemed that Pestilence were still in the process of figuring out their musical identity. The balance they’re attempting to strike between death metal (with early thrash influences) and jazz-fusion is extremely difficult, and at many points in Doctrine it sound like they are still experimenting with the precise calibration.
The experiments are sometimes great, such as on “Sinister” and “Divinity,” and always productive, but not always successful, as the too funky “Salvation” and “Deception” demonstrate. Mameli’s vocals are difficult for me as well, as he adopts a strained, strangled wail instead of a traditional death metal growl. The result is occasionally successful, in a wild-animal-in-pain kind of way, but is also often distracting.
Doctrine is strongest when Pestilence drench their sound in sludge and groove, like they do at the beginning of lead-off track “Amgod.” During moments like this, the strength and viciousness of the low end shine through. Jeroen Paul Thesseling’s work on the bass is exceptional, and the entire band play at a nearly peerless level of skill and precision.
All the individual ingredients on this release are brilliant, but the way they’re combined can sometimes be muddled. Pestilence are still experimenting with their dosages a quarter-century into their career, still evolving. Whatever criticisms may be levelled against Doctrine, it’s at impossible to say that Pestilence are stagnant.
(released July 19, 2011 on Mascot Records)