Oldie but Goldie: Pestilence – Testimony of the Ancients

Testimony of the Ancients
Image via Wikipedia

Number two in my occasional little “ooh, I forgot how good this album is” series is Testimony of the Ancients by Dutch band Pestilence. I’ve got it on my phone and it gets regular plays in the car.

The history behind the band and album is interesting. Without repeating too much of the Wikipedia entry (worth a read – it’s not too long), the band went through a lot of line-up changes. With each change and each album (up to and including their fourth and last for an extended period, Spheres), their music style ducked and dived considerably. Testimony of the Ancients is their third and, in my opinion, not just their best but one of the best death/thrash albums I’ve ever heard.

It’s a novel piece of work with an unusual sound to it. Not as fast as some thrash, but with more tempo and less of a tinny, treble-y sound than a lot of death albums of that era. Simply, the production is superb. Given that it’s a Scott Burns job, this isn’t really that surprising if you have a look at the list of classics he worked on.

Each main track is separated from the next by an unusual atmospheric “outro”. These range from half a minute to just over a minute long and could be used in the soundtrack for a horror-based video game. A nice little extra to throw on there.

What makes TotA such a good album, in my opinion, is its accessibility. It’s easy to listen to and an excellent portal into the world of death metal. Along with Death’s Spiritual Healing (also a Scott Burns production), it’s amongst the first albums of this genre I heard and I still listen to both frequently.

I recall seeing Pestilence at Graspop a couple of years ago and they were superb, playing a fair part of their set from this album. I also swear I have a ticket from the early 90’s somewhere which tells me I saw them at the Riverside in Newcastle possibly before this album came out. So many bands, and too small a brain to retain all the memories!

Having lauded such praise on it, it’s a shame to then say that I wasn’t impressed with follow-up Spheres, which melded the likes of jazz fusion with the death metal sound. It just didn’t work for me. The band broke up for 16 years after that one and have since recorded two more albums I wasn’t aware of. Time for a dig in the online shops…

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