PESTILENCE was one of few bands who successfully merged jazzy structures into heavy music, back in the 1990s. Most of the best were from Florida (DEATH, ATHEIST, CYNIC) but PESTILENCE emerged from The Netherlands and have endured as forefathers—and still torchbearers—of progressive, technical death metal. I’m pleased to welcome founder and frontman Patrick Mameli here on ‘Mind over Metal’. The audio of our entire discussion is below, with some portions transcribed.
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Why did it make sense for PESTILENCE to evolve in the way it did?
It’s just natural in a person’s being. My being is to not just please the masses, but to please Pestilence. I don’t like stagnation—I like always to look forward. When you look at our discography and the way we evolved from Malleus to Doctrine, we came a long way, but always had a progressive [approach] to music. Especially when we started hanging around with the guys from Cynic—they were listening to the same kinds of music we were into. Having a deeper understanding of your instrument is just a natural thing something that comes from within you. Some people just want to play the chords and make heavy music and that’s all good, but we always try to give a little bit extra. Musical tastes are like tastes in color. Some people like the color red and they don’t know why, it’s just there.
You said CYNIC helped spark the creative change early on in PESTILENCE’s career. Was there any particular incident or artist who was introduced to you that really hit home?
Well by the time we did Testimony of the Ancients, I was already hanging out with Paul Masvidal, checking out his guitar and what equipment he was using. I already knew he was onto something—knowing how he wanted his sound and where to get sound like that. He was experimenting a lot, and paved the way for us to get to know the good brands, effects processors. I have to give props to those guys for giving me the knowledge of music, because it really helped me open up my style with Pestilence.
One of my favorite random posts of the last couple years was by Paul Masvidal [from Metta Mind Journal on MetalSucks] about finding riffs using bird calls. It just goes to show the variety of places you can find influence, if only you open your ears.
Many people have asked me, over the years, how I come up with music. What you just said about Paul is a super example of how that works. Any sound from nature can trigger something in your brain, and you can come up with beautiful stuff.
How was the name PESTILENCE originally chosen, and how has it reflected the band’s spirit through your various musical directions?
That’s a valid question you have there. Bands may choose their name because it fits the music, but they change styles, soften up; maybe that name doesn’t fit the band anymore. When we started out, we were more like a thrash band, and there is a Kreator song from Pleasure to Kill called “The Pestilence”. I was thinking of a band name and was reading the Malleus Maleficarum, The Bible—and then I came across the word ‘pestilence’. I thought it was a strong word, pretty brutal, but even then I had a thought in the back of my mind that this might not fit in later years. Now it’s a household name. We always talk about the dark side of humanity, though this doesn’t mean Satanism or gore. Anything can be a pestilence, y’know, anything negative.
How does it take on a unique character when coupled with the lyrical themes and album art in Doctrine, which seems to be an ostensible attack on religion.
I wanted to give religion a kick in the butt. I don’t necessarily think religion is [inherently] bad. But it feels like a cult. People shouldn’t look up to a higher power or other people, they should look at themselves and what they can do to become a better person.
Please paraphrase what is said in “The Predication” (I only speak English).
We took random sentences from The Book of Revelations and made them into our own two-minute story. People don’t need to worry about The Antichrist, they need to worry about things in everyday life. Again, think for yourselves!
One thing that has changed on this album is your vocals. I listened to Resurrection Macabre and Doctrine back-to-back, and you went from mostly deep growls [on the former] to mixing it up more [on the latter], especially on a track like “Sinister”, which explores the widest range I’ve ever heard from you. Can you explain this change, and if it has anything to do with a ‘greater emotional range’.
It’s two things. The first is to never look back. If I do something well, I don’t stay with that little talent—I always want to expand and do something else. This is a bit of a technical aspect, but we started with the 8-string guitars, which are on a lower frequency. And if I growled to that…
…it blended too much?
It took away from the dynamics, definitely, so I couldn’t go there. I sang like this a little on Spheres, but not with this much emotion and brutality. So I knew I needed to go up, away from the bass and guitar. I even do some high-pitched Tom Araya screams.
Yeah, it was on “Divinity” [and also “Sinister” ~Ed.], you get really high on that one!
That higher emotional range can even sound demented, and I think it’s good. Either you like it or you don’t. Some may not like my specific voice on this album because it’s so much of a change from the previous. Pestilence has always been about reinventing itself while staying true to the style, and I’m really happy with the outcome.
Any last words for the listeners [and readers] of Mind over Metal?
Well, “Mind over Metal” already says it! It’s such a great name, because—always have your mind over your metal. Listen to your metal, but always use your mind and your imagination.
Thanks for saying so, Patrick—I also think that’s something we symbolize.