I'm not sure what it was that made me so ambivalent about this record at first. It might have been the bulldozer production, heavy on the numbing, overdriven rhythm guitar and Peter Wildoer's okay-we-get-it blast beats. It could have been as simple as a bad taste left by mainman Patrick Mameli's interviews, dismissing his own reunion as by-the-numbers brutality because that's all us dumb fans can handle (yeah, you made that C-187 record, and the people rejected it. We're not the ones with the problem, dude). But spin after spin, it did nothing for me. Sixteen years after their last studio release came and went, it seemed like PESTILENCE had reformed for naught.
But if "Resurrection Macabre" is anything, it's a grower, and a good few of these cuts will eventually sink into your cranium to lodge with the best PESTILENCE has ever put down. The most self-consciously heavy set the band has ever spewed forth, the album finds drummer Wildoer dishing out fills and blasts like a man possessed, while Mameli sprinkles technical riffing and odd chords amid passages of pummelling brutality. The vocals, and even the lyrics, are barbaric to the point of atavism, crushing and faceless bellows juxtaposed with jazzy bass fills from Tony Choy and Mameli's own colorful, outer-space-worthy guitar solos. It's like someone took 1991's "Testimony of the Ancients" album, amped it to modern production levels (and then some), and dragged it through the glass-strewn backyard at a DEEDS OF FLESH housewarming party — fistfuls of impassive, opaque death metal tonnage leavened and made dynamic by slithering bits of PESTILENCE's recognizable prog-metal fusion style.
When it works, you get songs like the punishing, hooky "Horror Detox" and the frantic, darting "Fiend" — high standards of controlled chaos with tones hearkening back to the band's glory days. When it doesn't, silly clunkers like "Y2H" are the result, overdriving the heaviness seemingly just to score scene points and appear current, without regard to whether the song is compelling or not. Thankfully, upon repeated listens, more of the former emerges — we close with the epic "In Sickness and Death", perhaps the most recognizable song in the context of earlier PESTILENCE, with an awesomely sick dirge riff in the chorus that'll forgive a lot of the previous songs' excesses.
So in the end, "Resurrection Macabre" is a pretty cool mix of modern bludgeon and Mameli's whacked-out jazz metal muse, once you get used to it. It occasionally veers into brutality for its own sake, and loses the plot a bit in those moments, but Mameli finally seems comfortable with indulging his more technical side within the context of (and in service to) his death metal roots, rather than the other way around. The results are distinctive and unique — Mameli's style is instantly recognizable — and it works often enough to create a diverse and satisfying metal experience. Does it hold a candle to the band's classic work? No, but not much on earth does, so don't hold that against 'em.