I've always wanted to like this album. The cover is cool, the title is smarter than a lot of death metal album titles, and it is precisely the thrashy, riffy Euro-metal that I love. It's not too far off from early Death, Possessed, Slayer, the first Morbid Angel, Massacra, etc. On the other hand, no one would confuse this with Sepultura, Deicide, Obituary, Incantation, Entombed, Gorguts...
So, this is fairly early (1989) death metal that has a lot of thrash elements, but also a lot of the progressive and technical aspects of thrash, such that even in its origin in an earlier style it is already moving beyond itself. This would be borne out on the next album, Testimony of the Ancients, which has keyboards and other such trappings of sophistication.
I say, "I've always wanted to like this album," because I hate the way it is recorded, and it has been in my collection for years collecting dust. The vocals cut across the guitar sound too much. It is hard to get used to. Contrast with the Cancer album Death Shall Rise, and you'll hear what--without too great a difference--is lost in the murkiness and flatness here.
Even after numerous listens, though, and with the songs all being familiar to me, it is hard to enter into the record, to give oneself over to it. Unlike many metal records which are intentionally odd or technical, and can feel like "exercises," Consuming Impulse is obviously attempting to popularize itself. I have a similar feeling about Incantation. Except with Incantation, I feel that there is something obvious that I am missing: either something dumb or high-concept. In the case of Pestilence, I see exactly what they are doing, but as though it is an action in which I cannot interfere or even sympathize. Perhaps you will know what I mean if you think of watching TV, and sitting through 20 or so minutes of a suspense film. You are not confused... you just don't care, since you will never know what happened in the first part of the film. No matter how good it is, you cannot enter into it.
Pestilence have an advantage over most death metal bands, and over most death metal listeners, in being obviously intelligent--something like the opposite of Obituary. Their riffs are uniquely arty without being jazzy or weak, and constitute their own trademark (along the lines of Slayer's famous riff style). This album is still growing on me, because I keep coming back to it, but I can't say yet that I understand how to enjoy it.
Score: 3.5/5 stars (*** 1/2)
Best songs: "Suspended Animation," "Out of the Body," "Reduced to Ashes"