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Black metal from the American tundra. Pestifere’s ‘Hope Misery Death’

And so yet another Minneapolis band comes to my attention and further reinforces what a hotbed of great metal that town is. Often the best artists there practice forms of atmospheric black metal, but Pestifere is a somewhat different beast — and a more accessible one at that.

“Hope Misery Death” offers a colossal cavalcade of melodic blackened death metal that should prove irresistible to any fan of the metallic arts. Dissection is probably the best reference point. That seminal Swedish band is a reference point for a lot of groups, though, to the point of rampant cloning, but have no fear of that here. The magic of Dissection is the fusion of intense melodic attacks with equally intense brutality. And, I would argue, a healthy dose of thrash. So too does Pestifere pour on endless melodies that coat their black/death metal in a shining shell, but they put their own stamp on it.

If this album has any flaws, it might be that it blows its wad too soon. “Don’t Let the Winter Take You,” in addition to having a killer title, is a screaming barn burner of an opener. The percussive/melodic assault is fully on point, seriously deadly, and hooky as hell. But my favorite part is the tight stop/start tactic that incites headbanging every single time. Then for its final couple of minutes it gets its Opeth on. Just a ridiculously good song.

As for the rest, though, there still isn’t a weak point among them. “Cormorant Tree” has a dizzying, ferocious melody that pummels the senses in the best possible way, while “Peregrine’s Timbre” is a little slower, a little more brooding, but still plenty aggressive and bewitching. Gentle and morose acoustic interlude “Dispirit” gives way to the furious and flailing “Suffer the Day,” which attacks with a relentless volley of blackened melodic supremacy. “Tomb of Monumental Decay” again uses melodic flourishes to great effect, but then spirals into ripping thrash à la early ’80s Metallica. And the seething “Mine Is a Strange Prison” is a feral thrashbeast as well, while also unleashing some Dissection shred. It finally drops what may be the best melodic moments of the whole record, though only briefly, in two passages of tremolo picking that are absolutely enthralling. Then one more moody acoustic track, the gorgeous “To Those Who Lost Their Home” rounds out the journey on a subdued note.

“Hope Misery Death” is a rousing ride indeed, peppered with ear candy melodies but fully punishing in its own right. I’m a sucker for this style and find myself prone to it more often than not, but Pestifere do an especially fine job with it. Balls-out metal through and through.

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