PESTILENCE — Levels of Perception (review)

PESTILENCE — Levels of Perception album cover Album · 2024 · Technical Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
1.5/5 ·
UMUR
"Levels of Perception" is the tenth full-length studio album by Dutch death metal act Pestilence. The album was released through Agonia Records in April 2024. It features twelve re-recordings of tracks which have appeared on some of the band´s earlier releases. Not all preceding albums are represented (there are no re-recordings of tracks from "Malleus Maleficarum" (1988) or from "Spheres" (1994)), but all other Pestilence studio albums are represented with at least one track each...

...and the tracklist is up for debate. It seems a bit odd to me, why Pestilence would chose to re-record no less than four tracks from their last album "Exitivm". Re-recordings are usually done to show how a current version of a group plays older classic material, but it seems Pestilence had another vision with "Levels of Perception". "Consuming Impulse" (1989) and "Testimony of the Ancients" (1991) are represented by two tracks each (I guess they didn´t dare leave out "Out of the Body") but that´s the only pre-reformation material featured on "Levels of Perception". It´s not that Pestilence more current material isn´t decent, but it just seems a bit strange to re-record material from 2021 on a 2024 release.

When that is said, there are unfortunately much, much worse things to say about "Levels of Perception" which is through and through a horrible release. I can´t call it anything else than an abomination and a terrible misstep in the discography of Pestilence. The material is what it is, but the performances and some of the new arrangements are tame and uninspired. Honestly it almost made me cry listening to the re-recordings of "Twisted Truth" and "Out of the Body", which are two of my absolute favorite Pestilence tracks, both of which are butchered here (Patrick Mameli how could you?).

But the performances and the weak vocals from Mameli aren´t even the worst here...it´s the production values. The drums were recorded live at one studio in 2021 and everything else was overdubbed at other studios during the next couple of years. Many artists have made live recordings of drums in the studio and have gotten great results from it, but that can´t be said about the drums on "Levels of Perception", which sound like they were recorded at a rehearsal space (and not at a studio like they are) using an old fashioned four-track tape recorder. This is demo quality sound production values. And it´s not just the drums. The guitars feature an odd high end tone which is grating on the ears, Mameli´s voice is distorted and you can´t always make out the words he sings (which usually isn´t an issue on Pestilence albums), and the bass is completely disconnected from the rest of the instruments in the mix...and bass player Joost van der Graaf often sounds like he is playing another song than the rest of the members of the band.

A pretty harsh critique, which I´m not happy to deliver since Pestilence have long been some of my heroes, but I have to call it like I see it. Honesty and full disclosure. Pestilence have some work to do, to drag themselves back from this disaster. Their next album better be the best album they have released since reforming in 2008 or they may find themselves a fan or two short. You don´t come back from something like this without some careful consideration and reflection in terms of what went wrong, and what should we never do again...a 1.5 star (30%) rating is warranted. I´m tempted to give an even lower rating, but I´m trying to be fair and at least give Pestilence some sort of credit for existing, but there really isn´t much to give them credit for after listening to this album.
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UMUR wrote:
32 days ago
So you´re actually able to appreciate the sound production?
Vim Fuego wrote:
32 days ago
It's a weird album for sure, but I don't mind it too much. At least it doesn't sound like every other cookie-cutter death metal album out there.
Nightfly wrote:
32 days ago
Oh wow, knew nothing about this until i saw your review and it does sound bad. If you're going to do something like this what's the point if it's not an improvement?

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