Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pest - The Crowning Horror [2013]

You could well say I was tedious when I approached Pest's ''The Crowning Horror'' for the first time as I was uncertain of what to expect; the cover suggested some sort of inbred of Witchery circa 1999, war metal pundits Blasphemy and Archgoat, Venom and some early Bathory records, though my apprehension was not too great since these gentlemen were Swedish, and believe me, Sweden seldom fails to deliver. Pest are indeed one of the most evil bands to come from Sweden, since the majority of the scene now seems to plagued with Swede-a-likes, bearing some resemblance to the phenomenal black/speed/thrash act Antichrist, but potent in being able to conjure something distinctly more sordid, cunning and evil. Given the band's sound and primacy, its devoutness towards the archaic roots of black metal, and their jumpy, percussive attitude, I didn't feel all too interested in Pest initially, but after channeling a handful of other, relatively derivative black/thrash acts, I concluded that the Swedes were actually better than I thought they were, as I they elicited some kind of growth policy upon me.

My estimations were roughly accurate; Pest tussle back and forth to bring back the black metal sound of the late 80's, although their sound is only remotely associated with war metal acts of Blasphemy's sort, and you could say that instead of directly snatching the aesthetic inclinations of Bathory, Venom and Celtic Frost, they throw in primordially dominated riffs into thrash and NWOBHM-like patterns, making the riffs all the more intriguing. Don't let this fool you though. The moment ''The Crowning Horror'' inaugurates, the listener is instantaneously drawn into a hybridized trajectory with countless bumps and crevices lurking along the path where the listener is hammered with some of the most flexible black metal riffs I've heard this year, but Pest somehow manage to draw an immense measure of vitriol into their mixture. The guitars are undoubtedly the unsurpassed superiors of this record, as with all of Pest's albums, I imagine; they're a multitude of strings confronting the unready listener with melody, and regular sessions of bludgeon, all meshed into a wonderfully filthy production level that, while negating any kind of obfuscation, permeates with guitars with a beautifully sodden ichor, and the drums are also crisp, a guaranteed trip to stimulating horror for old schoolers and more ''intellectual'' metalheads.

Perhaps the main trick that the Swedes have somehow managed to accomplish is filtering different genre progressions and patterns with the default formula, and nearly every track has something different in store for you, be it speed, NWOBHM, thrash, death or just a more caustic focus on traditional first wave black metal, and on any level, Pest are able to bring a viable product to the table. The entrenched barks of Necro imbue the rest of the music with further obscurity and menace, a dark, sinister timbre that mingles randomly around the concave path that the guitars keep flirting at. Indeed, one characteristic that draws a clear line between Pest any other band willing to exercise the predilections of first wave black metal is that no matter how haunting they are, the Swedes always leave a whiff of ridicule behind that's supposedly a byproduct of the music as a whole. Maybe it's just me, but whatever songs they play, the clash of the focal guitars with the wretched vocals creates an almost cheesy texture. ''Demon'', for example, is excellent with clear melodies underpinned with solid rhythm sections, but when the vocalist intervenes, the hymn of mockery begins, and the quality thankfully goes higher instead of dropping. ''Volcanic Eyes'' is even better, perhaps my favorite piece here, with stark speed/heavy riffs eventually morphing into heavier black/thrash motifs, the puerile barks of Necro once again joining the choir. ''Thirteen Chimes'' builds up with near-immaculate precision, like a reflection of the band's doom-inspired tenacity; a feast of chugs and gnawing horror.

The Swedish duo is spot-on on ''The Crowning Horror'', though I wouldn't go as far as to say they're spotless, as certain minute problems of redundancy did stain the shirt a little. Nevertheless, I was, in the end, pleased to find a band that craved for a sound that may not be original, but was desperately needed in today's metal universe, inserted in the right amount to the band's unique texture. ''The Crowning Horror'' would really have been a good finding if it were uncovered in the late 80's, a perfect band that would arguably influence second wave Swedish black metal mavens Arckanum, Mork Gryning, and so forth. This is an album that vitalizes horror and morbidity through its use technical and less dark, melodic motifs, but it's still haunting as fuck, embracing the meaning of its title as fully as possible.

Volcanic Eyes

Rating: 88%

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