Patrick Mameli's decision to resurrect Pestilence was not an entirely popular one. The age of the dead rising in metal has led to some of death metal's finest creations, spilling blood for their grotesque and morbid fans in the greatest of ways, but Pestilence came up short during "Resurrection Macabre," especially compared to the group's prior releases. With "Doctrine," Tony Choy has left the picture again, but Mameli acquired former members Jeroen Paul Thesseling on bass and longtime axeman Patrick Uterwijk to fill the void, both men finally back home. All the pieces are in place, and "Doctrine" is probably the most experimental Pestilence release next to the notorious "Spheres," but still, this is pretty vapid stuff. The material is technical yet foolishly simplistic, and the song writing reeks of pedestrian roots, definitely an unacceptable malfeasance branded by a legendary group.
The layered, complex magic which granted Pestilence might throughout groundbreaking efforts like "Testimony of the Ancients" finds itself watered down significantly here, and in the most confusing of ways. For example, the album explodes into "Amgod," and the musical endeavors are boiled down to simple, chugging riffs, Thesseling's wacky bass playing and the corky percussion of Yuma Van Eekelen's technical hands. It's really weird, because the upfront musicality doesn't seem too complex or musically taxing, but there's also strange drum fills and bass lines scattered throughout "Doctrine," and the overt simplicity regarding the guitars is quite deceiving itself; Mameli and Uterwijk aren't known to cut corners when it comes to shredding.
Most of "Doctrine" follows suit, and it makes for a pretty strange album overall, truly having little to do with Pestilence's discography barring the oozing jazz and progressive elements which reek of "Spheres" reborn, yet certainly not as riveting or optimistically shocking. Some will call it progressive, others jazz, and the technical aspect is undeniable, but it's a dull album regardless of what it "Doctrine" is at heart. The riffs are generally stuck in a mid-paced gear and often times fail to hook on relevant territory, whereas Mameli and Uterwijk sluggishly solo over and over again in an uninspired, insipid attempt to circulate their guitar work into the bizarre rhythms and simplistic postulates. Mameli's vocals return to the guttural shouting one might call a poor man's Van Drunen, although he does some insane stuff with his voice occasionally. Nothing extraordinary, but certainly worth mentioning.
Sadly, few things do stick out. I'm pretty sure that Thesseling's return to the band led to this confusing direction, as the similarities to "Spheres," especially in Thesseling's bass playing, are clearer than daylight. The way his fretless bass bends and twists over and under the constant meandering of riffs is actually a spectacle in and of itself, truly the work of a bassist in prime form. Yuma Van Eekelen's rookie performance also does not go unnoticed, as his algorithmic percussion and spastic fills are nice additions to "Doctrine" as well. The remaining sectors of "Doctrine" succumb to aimless complexities and careless song writing falling into overtly-repetitious territory and everyday woes of how not to do unusual death metal.
Maybe this was a failed experiment that just didn't pan out like Mameli and crew intended. After all, Pestilence sheds its skin more than a paranoid snake, and the sound change coming from the brutal "Resurrection Macabre" to something entirely outside the box must have been a difficult transition, not to mention the reunion between Mameli and his previous associations. Needless to say, if you're expecting "Consuming Impulse" reshaped and repackaged or a worthy sequel to "Testimony of the Ancients," forget about it. "Doctrine" is just as unexpected and abstractly calculated as any Pestilence album, but unfortunately only in its dire nature and substandard articulations.