Patrick Mameli has rarely followed the easiest path throughout his music career.
As a founding member of Pestilence he was part of the vanguard of European Death Metal in the late 80’s and at the forefront of the genre’s journey into a more technical direction in the early 90’s.
But he alienated much of the band’s fan-base by incorporating a heavy Jazz-Fusion influence on their fourth album with the band splitting soon afterwards.
Several questionable musical endeavours prior to reforming Pestilence, some patchy reunion albums, a continually fluctuating line-up and another breakup left many considering Pestilence a name consigned to the Metal scrap-heap and probably better off for it.
In late 2016 it appeared Mameli had revived the band once again with a view to recording new material.
Expectations were low – Mameli’s social media presence is as entertaining as it is cringe-inducing – but the announcement of a “Special Old School Set” tour certainly garnered some interest.
The first track released from the new album, “Multi Dimensional” was a pleasant surprise, raising expectations that maybe Mameli still had something left to offer.
It wouldn’t be Pestilence without some level of chaos, however, and the very early leak of the new album forced the band to release Hadeon a couple of months ahead of schedule.
This meant they would be in the unusual position of playing a nostalgia tour, intended to build interest in Hadeon, for several weeks after the album’s release.
In this context an impressively-sized crowd fill Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge on a cold Saturday night for a journey through one of Death Metal’s finest back-catalogues, anticipating an old-school treat but, given the band’s history, in hope rather than expectation.
Unfortunately, I arrive too late to catch more than the last few notes from Skewered so settle in to enjoy Zealot Cult.
Limerick’s finest are an apt support for Pestilence, powering through a solid set in no-nonsense fashion and round matters off with the mighty “Karmenian Crypt” to the appreciation of those up front.
Numbers swell significantly as time approaches for Pestilence to take the stage and, ever the enigma, Mameli arrives onstage with a headless Steinberger guitar in one hand and two litres of milk in the other.
With final level checks done, the band take their positions as the intro of “Malleus Maleficarum” drifts quietly from the PA in slightly underwhelming fashion.
Once they rip into “Antropomorphia” at full volume, swiftly followed by “Parricide”, any fears of this night being a disappointment are rapidly quashed.
Pestilence work through their first-four-album set in chronological order and the crowd have warmed up nicely as “Dehydrated” heralds the start of the Consuming Impulse tracks.
Two things have become very clear to me at this stage.
First, this band is seriously tight.
Song nuances are impeccably observed and Calin Paraschiv, Tilen Hudrap and Septimiu Hărşan are exceptional players, capable of playing this classic material with the energy and accuracy it deserves.
Second, despite Mameli being the only band member to have played on the original recordings, there’s still an authenticity to this material.
Many new bands play to emulate this style and era of music but, hearing the old material played with passion by the guy who expanded boundaries by writing it, it’s hard not to feel there’s something special taking place before you.
Them Bones Need Calcium
By this stage, Mameli’s after-song trips back to his amp to swig some more milk have not gone unnoticed in the crowd and some cheeky ribbing brings a smile to Mameli’s face who retorts by suggesting that, though he may be fifty years old, thanks to milk he doesn’t look like it.
To be fair, it’s hard to argue with him.
He’s lean and fit (wonderfully described on the MI forum as “trying to pass himself off as one of these reprehensible Italian ‘Guido’ types”) and clearly becoming more appreciative of the response of those in attendance.
By playing songs from each album in the order of release, the musical progression Pestilence made through the early years is easy to hear and “Secrecies of Horror” is the first song played from their bona fide classic album Testimony of the Ancients while the pit convulses in energetic approval.
The attention to detail is what is making this gig one to be remembered and Mameli’s pick slide as he joins Paraschiv during the intro to “Twisted Truth” is just right.
It’s hard not to get swept up in the thrill of finally hearing these songs played so well on an Irish stage almost thirty years after release.
The number of people who swarm towards Mameli as he plays that iconic solo from “Land of Tears” suggests I’m not the only on feeling this.
The Testimony… interludes are also included before each of the five songs we are treated to from that seminal album.
The sole inclusion from Spheres is “Mind Reflections”, played which such ferocity that it could comfortably go toe-to-toe with any other Pestilence classic.
It’s a completely different beast live from the troublesome album version and, as such, the only disappointment on the night is why it’s the only Spheres song to make the set?
With that, the set ends and the band shuffle slowly offstage, except for Mameli who heads to the front of the stage to shake hands and bump fists with the many who are enthusiastically showing their appreciation for what has been a thoroughly excellent performance.
He seems genuinely moved and shakes every hand offered before moving back towards the drums as the shouts of “One more tune” reach a crescendo.
Instead of going offstage in time-honoured encore fashion, he returns to the mic to offer his thanks once again as the band return, launching into “Out of the Body” and putting the finishing touches on a concert which will have redeemed the Pestilence name to more than a few.
Mameli can be a divisive character but, on the strength of this performance and with the excellent Hadeon album out there to promote, the only question must be how quickly can they come back to play once again?
– Justin Maloney ::: 26/02/18