In a world that runs on personal bias and time efficiency, it can be a breath of fresh air to hear a band that knows exactly what it wants to sound like, and grabs that tone by the proverbial balls. Combining thrash-imbued black metal with melodic, atmospheric undertones, Pestifere are no strangers to harsher climates. Their last record, “Liminal”, was the essence of an aggressive debut. Speedy motifs and blasts were a plenty, but the lack of a cohesive structure caused the album to fall just short of greatness. “Liminal” presented a band who had a final vision, but was unfortunately lacking the maturity and finesse to fully realise it. Thankfully, there has been very little compromise in the band’s progression. “Hope Misery Death” far exceeds anything attempted by Pestifere hitherto, and the result is a frenetic banger of a good time.
Things kick off to a wildly frostbitten start with opener, “Don’t Let the Winter Take You”. While the band’s Dissection influences are as apparent as ever, their execution is concise and meaningful. The track flows between dynamics brilliantly, and the song on the whole acts as a fantastic indicator of the album’s overall theme. The rumbling bass, rapid riffing, persistent blasts, and narration-esque screeches rarely let up. While the fizzled guitar tone doesn’t do many favors for leads and solos (especially evident in the build up to “Cormorant Tree”‘s explosive conclusion), it is when every instrument is romping in tandem that moments of brilliance arise. Album highlight, “Peregrine’s Timbre” is a persistent auditory assault of heavy riffing and technical shredding for a minute or so, before diving deep into somber territory. The sudden shift in tone is startling, but welcome. It almost harkens back to the playful structuring of “Liminal”, but with musical technicality and tonal tenebrosity to back it up.
While the sheer directness of Pestifere’s approach is wonderful to experience in a sea of avant-gardes and genre-manglers, there are a couple of times where the line between inspiration and imitation becomes astoundingly thin. You could easily sneak “Mine is a Strange Prison” into an Immortal playlist without anyone batting an eye. This may be an impressive feat from the surface, but it detracts from the style Pestifere have molded throughout most of the album. Dissection worship is plentiful, and while the band manage to hold their own for the most part, veneration only succeeds in consideration. Should the band had better implemented their acoustic interludes and less-pronounced, darker segments into the main songs, there could be a considerably stronger sense of personal identity. Instead however, songs often feel like individual flavors, and the album on the whole swings to a mildly disjointed conclusion. By compounding the majority of the record’s acoustic work into the middle and ending track, songs less dynamic in tone such as “Tomb of Monumental Decay” wind up dragging their feet.
Make no mistake. “Hope Misery Death” is a brilliantly invigorating album, and it’s shortcomings are limited. Such ferocious musicianship paired with a production sound that drinks deep of black metal’s youthful roots makes for an absolutely enthralling release from start to finish. A stronger focus on crafting an individual tone could take Pestifere a long way, but there is enough ear-candy to keep heads banging until a future release. A stronger emphasis on balanced dynamics in a future release could easily be deserving of a longer run time, because for as much as “Hope Misery Death” might suffer from slight monotony due to familiarity, I was definitely left wanting more when it’s brief 39 minute run time came to a halt. While I am not confident in Pestifere’s identity, it is clear to see that they have a firm grasp on positive progression. “Hope Misery Death” is a brutally rapid venture through black metal’s finest melodic exports; the grim nostalgia is intensely addictive.
1. Don’t Let the Winter Take You
2. Cormorant Tree
3. Peregrine’s Timbre
5. Suffer the Day
6. Tomb of Monumental Decay
7. Mine is a Strange Prison
8. To Those Who Lost their Home