Pentagram_Curious Volume1Apart from Black Sabbath, no doom band can claim the same progenitor status Pentagram can. Coming into existence in 1971, they were the first American doom band and along with their slightly older British brothers in arms, they wrote the book on the entire genre. They also penned another book over the years on how to become the ultimate obscure, underground and kvlt act and stay that way for four fucking decades without ever getting proper recognition. Anyone who watched the harrowing, heartbreaking 2011 documentary Last Days Here will understand why I say I’m always extra thankful to receive new music from Pentagram. It does my metal heart good to know that despite all the heartbreak, setbacks, failures and personal demons, the band is still here like some anachronistic fugitive from a forgotten time, stubbornly remaining true to the sound they started so long ago. And that brings us to Curious Volume, their ninth album – a lovingly crafted follow-up to 2011s excellent Last Rites featuring more of their “street Sabbath” sound full of bluesy swing and sleazy barroom atmosphere. If you’ve been a fan for a while, think of this as another trip to the Pentagram Inn, where you know every grimy inch of the bar and are on a first name basis with every unsavory customer. What more could you want besides extra pickled eggs and a vat of Purell?

As the second “reunion album” featuring founding vocalist Bobby Liebling and indispensable guitarist Victor Griffin (Place of Skulls, In-Graved), this is the band at their seasoned best, delivering their traditional mix of Sabotage and Never Say Die era Sabbath, 60s psychedelics, Cream and biker rock. The songs are all well conceived and loaded with the vintage riffs and grooves Pentagram are known for, and the material feels meaner and harder-edged this time. Opener “Lay Down and Die” is all geeked up with geezer strength and Bobby’s “crazy homeless dude” cackle sound particularly biting and vital. Victor picks his moments and drops all kinds of old timey wah-wah fests and the music is well-suited for a Hell’s Angels rally.

“Tempter’s Push” is a dark anti-drug screed with an anthemic “Children of the Grave” bounce and a hooky main riff. “Dead Bury Dead” and Close the Casket” harken back to the classic Day of Reckoning album, and “Walk Alone” is one of those instantly likeable, tough-as-nails rockers Pentagram does so well (and that lead riff just smokes). The band dials in the brooding and despondent emotion on the grim title track, and “The Devil’s Playground” starts life as classic doom, but adds elements of country rock into the guitar-work for an interesting result.

Pentagram_2015All the songs are winners with loads of classic riffs and Bobby’s ghoulish charm. The production is perfect for the material, emphasizing Victor’s raw, fuzzy guitar but leaving plenty of room for Bobby to skulk around in the background like Golem. The bass is thick and everything sounds street lethal, punchy and meaty.

While Bobby is the fascinating face and soul of Pentagram, it’s Victor’s playing that really sells the material. I’m a sucker for his style and he’s long been one of my favorite guitarists. He seems to exist in several decades simultaneously, with copious 60s rock influences sitting alongside the expected Tony Iommi worship, and for every Sabbath idea, there’s two from Cream or The Yardbirds and some of the leads could appear on a Kyuss album. He’s so adept at locking into a bluesy groove and riding it like a magic carpet until the walls start to change colors and melt, he makes you realize how deficient many other guitarists really are (do yourself a favor and check out his In-Graved project for more proof). Naturally, Pentagram wouldn’t be the same without Bobby’s skincrawling vocals. He can sound so vulnerable and heartsick one moment, and so likely to cut out your spleen the next, he’s truly unique. His eerie garbled delivery on “Misunderstood” makes the song pop and his crooning at the beginning of “The Devil’s Playground” is right off a Clutch album.

This is exactly the kind of ballsy, gritty doom rock I need when cleaning my guns, drinking cheap whiskey and plotting against competing websites. If you need a dose of hard drinking, hard living doom, Curious Volume is the magic ticket. Easily one of the best albums of the year and another jewel in the crown of these living legends. Stay gold, Ponyboys, stay gold.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Peaceville Records
Websites: pentagramusa.com | facebook.com/pentagramusa
Releases Worldwide: August 28, 2015

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  • Hulksteraus

    Old School! Totally agree with the review and the sentiment. Love that fat, fuzzy guitar sound.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      They sound really energized.
      I’m curious, SD, what’s your desert island Pentagram album?

      • That’s easy. Day of Reckoning is by far my favorite Pentagram album, followed by their debut.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Cool. Have to admit I didn’t pay them much attention in the past. I’ll check these out. Seems them and Riot are giving the Grateful Dead and the Stones a run for their money in terms of longevity. But then, when was the last really great Stones album?

          • Definitely check them out. Especially the song “Burning Savior” from Day of Reckoning. That one is a doom epic of major proportions! DOOM!

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Will do. I get so caught up in current Doom releases, I often fail to check out the early masters.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            As for the Stones question, my guess would be mid to late Seventies.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            For me, the last great Stones album was Exile on Main Street, which I still play now and then. Some Girls and Tattoo You are good, but not in the same league as EOMS, imho.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I was thinking Sticky Fingers. Either way that makes it early Seventies.

  • Martin Knap

    Cool, this might make me want to listen to something to something else than Jorn Lande for a while…

    • Let’s not get crazy now.

      • Martin Knap

        It’s Friday night…

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    OH DAMN OH DAMN OH DAMN OH DAMN A NEW PENTAGRAM ALBUM!!! How did I not know this was coming out??

    I’m so glad to hear another album with Victor Griffin. Other than Iommi himself, Victor is the quintessential doom metal guitarist. Day of Reckoning and Relentless are my 2 favourite doom albums. I just wish they’d do something like Burning Savior again – arguably the best doom song ever. But I’m not complaining, I’m just happy to hear more Pentagram :D

    • That’s funny, I just recommended “Burning Savior” a few comments down.

      • Refined-Iron Cranium

        Haha the comment didn’t show up when I replied.
        In fact, I just realised I found out about Pentagram from your top 50 metal songs list a few years back, I almost forgot about that.

        I guess I should be thanking you then!

        • Send money, beer and other beer.

          • Refined-Iron Cranium

            Will a few bottles of Guinness and about $3.50 suffice?

          • I’ll take it.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Caution: don’t play “Misunderstood” if you’re driving.

  • MikkoKukkonen

    A new Pentagram album?! This caught me by surprise, but damn does that embedded track sound good! I really have to get my hands on the whole album.

  • Kronos

    I really enjoy this, which worries me because of the growing fear that Druhm’s current tastes give me a peek at my hideous musical future.

    • With back hair comes wisdom (and Jorn).

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Don´t worry. As you get older, you´ll start listening again to whatever music you loved as a teenager. You´ll also start complaining about how “this noise kids are making today is not real music” while listening to your decades old favorite songs from Ulcerate, Portal, Origin and Fleshgod Apocalypse.

  • Those jeans are making me feel constipated.

  • Luke_22

    I really need to check these dudes out more thoroughly, I’ve shamefully neglected them over the years for no apparent reason. Digging the sample track here and the production sounds excellent.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Would it be right to say that any common elements between Pentagram, Kyuss and Clutch come from probably the same set of Sixties influences? Heavy psychedelic bands like Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Bang and some other more obscure bands?

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Great to see them still going strong all these years!

  • Kyle Smith

    Review your choices!!!

  • sickbroski

    I see a wolf and a see a raven. Tweedlee tweedlee tweedlee…

  • De2013

    Will check this out. Still listen a lot to VG’s In-Graved!

  • Jackson

    Relentless is what pentagram is about, today they are a completly other band, this aint doom at all.
    I like like 1 song of this new record.

    • Their sound has evolved over time, but this is definitely still doom and some of the songs sound a lot like material from Day of Reckoning which is as classic as it gets.

      • Jackson

        Doom is candlemass, vitus , early pentagram etcetera (yes including Day of Reckoning). This doesnt sound anything near that.

        • No, doom is not just Candlemass and Vitus. Sabbath started the entire genre and Pentagram came right on their heels. They may have taken their sound into more hard edged spaces over time, but they pretty much defined the entire genre, whereas Candlemass came along way later and borrowed elements of what they and Sabbath did.
          I think you have too narrow a definition of the doom genre.

          • Jackson

            I didnt claim Pentagram, Candlemass and Vitus were the only doom bands, I just meant that classic doom is those previously named bands, the doom label wasnt used about sabbath, it came decade(s) later. Having said that this album IMO lacking clear doom sound, mos tracks here are rather quite fast, atleast to be called doom.

          • basenjibrian

            There can be endless parsings of the definition of “doom”. Is this a Doom band? Yes. Is the music heavy and doomy? Yes. Is it good? Yes.
            No further debate needed.

          • Rommper

            Doom metal=/=just slow playing. This is the biggest mistake most of the new doom bands commit.

  • Philip Pledger

    For the record, this album is (intentionally or not) available now in full through iTunes. iTunes has it listed as “Released Aug 28, 2015” for some reason instead of “Pre-order: Expected: Aug 28, 2015.” Not sure what’s going on there, but it does mean that anyone looking to pick up the album can do so a few days early there. Seriously good doom, here.

    • Thanks for the heads up!

    • basenjibrian

      Just saw that myself. Maybe the power of THE JOBS from BEYOND THE GRAVE is at work?

  • Andie Sassone

    I am curious as to who wrote what on Curious Volume. I can’t seem to find this info on the net. thanks.