Pest-ArtworkPest. Such a good name for a black metal band they used it (at least) twice. This is the long running Swedish band, now on their fourth full length but regretfully my first proper acquaintance with them. After the obligatory intro, we get to the meat of the matter. ‘A Face Obscured By Death’ is a raw, basic bit of black metal heavily tempered by a heavy metal sensibility to the riff. Mid paced and sharp it somehow comes over as a slower, less migraine indicating Aura Noir. It has a real bit of black ‘n’ roll swagger to it too, something taken much further by Volcanic Eyes. This adds a great running guitar melody and a bass line which is kind of NWOBHM, a twist of Judas Priest wrapped up in barked barbed wire vocals and an ever descending feel of darkness that really gets my thick ol’ blood pumping again. Nice, messy and thrashy it really gallops away. Somehow though it’s ‘Devil’s Mark’ that brings it all home to me: A slow, dirty and sinister riff with a seriously deep groove to it with a fine lead break, this is a Judas Priest grinder gone black metal via Venom and Darkthrone and Destroyer 666. Slap across the face marvelous.

Unlike some, Pest really know how to mix up the pace of songs to fine effect and really work that black ‘n’ roll into every dark filthy crevice without pulling the atmosphere from under you. When they up the pace it spits and snarls black-thrash through stained teeth, drop a few gears and raw, basic pitch black groove adheres itself to the riffs like tar and those heavily echoed vocals rattle around your skull like a hangover psychosis. When they are good they are very good.

When they are not so good?

Hmm. Well ‘Thirteen Chimes’ perhaps outstays it’s welcome, but it still builds nicely and the heads down charge of the ultra-basic ‘Demon’ soon makes up for it anyway. The production is thin, too, but it doesn’t drown the sound in dead snare drum battery as usually occurs in these circumstances and, frankly, you hardly want Nightwish Teflon Production Coating on this kind of gnarly stuff anyway so it is sufficient for what’s needed.

Something does niggle a bit towards the end, though, with the title track and closer ‘Eternal Curse’. Both songs are ok but particularly that last one has that almost awkward ‘mid-set wonder about a shout along with the crowd’ air to it. The one when I start trying to remember where the bar or the bogs are. It’s a curious and I have to say somewhat puzzlingly weak ending to a really rather good hunk of black ‘n’ roll. Maybe it’s a running order thing rather than too many songs?

So. Strong start and all the attitude and flair you need but with a slight tendency to fade in the final stretch. Basic, raw, dirty and rather fine black, traditional and thrash metal all rolled up into one unpretentious and spiky, groovy little package. My misgivings about the tail end of The Crowning Horror notwithstanding, if that all sounds good, buy because it is a fine, solid slash and slow-burn album.

(7.5/10 Gizmo)