Pentagram has been around almost as long as actual pentagrams have. These are some seriously grizzled, wiley vets of the doom scene and the fact they’re still churning out material is amazing to me. This band has been together in one form or another since 1971 and now they’re back again in 2011. In case you somehow missed the boat on these doom titans, Pentagram plays 70’s styled doom metal similar to early Black Sabbath or old Saint Vitus and they’ve created some of the best moments in the style over their long life. For those already familiar with the Penta-brand, what makes this album a Big Fucking Deal (thank you, Joe Biden) is the return of founding guitarist and doom demigod Victor Griffin (Place of Skulls) who hasn’t graced a Pentagram platter since their last great effort, Be Forewarned way back in 1994. With one of the true masters of doom guitar reunited with one of the founding fathers of doom vocals Bobby Liebling, can things end up as anything other than unnaturally bad ass? No, no they can’t and Last Rites is the strongest and most consistently killer album since Be Forewarned and may even be better. From start to finish, this sounds like a fully recharged and hungry Pentagram and what makes it even better, it sounds WAY heavier and more battle ready than the recent string of releases with Joe Hasselvander playing all the instruments. This is Grade A doom with some serious attitude and it delivers a major kick to the arse. Not what you would expect from a bunch of old codgers eh?
As a long time fan of the band, I was taken aback by the straight forward intensity of lead track “Treat Me Right” and follow up “Call the Man,” Both tracks are exceptionally rough and heavy and Victor’s super distorted, fuzzed guitar sounds amazing. What’s more, Bobby sounds like a pissed off youngster again (youngster ghoul that is). Both are instantly memorable rockers and set the standard for the classic doom sounds to come. As things progress we get treated to the classically styled “Into the Ground” which could have appeared on Pentagram‘s first few albums seamlessly and then we get the album highlight and instant doom classic “8.” This one really blew my doors off with it’s dark, bleak sound, soul-weary vocals and outrageously spot-on guitar work by Victor. I’ve had this mother on replay for days and can’t seem to get enough of it. Its the musical equivalent of a black hole and by far the best Pentagram song in years. There’s more where that came from and tracks like “Everything’s Turning to Night,” “Walk in the Blue Light” and “Nothing Left” are all mammoth, hulking 70’s doom monsters. Victor even gets behind the mic for “American Dreams” to great effect. Even the oddball “Land of Windmills and Chimes” is impressive and sounds like something Cream could have written.
What always made Pentagram so great was the combination of Bobby’s creepy, serial killing frog/ghoul vocals and Victor’s enormous groove riffing. Both are back in a big way here and they penned some top flight songs in which to employ these weapons to maximum effect. Victor’s guitar work is stellar and his moody, mournful soloing takes the material to the next level. He puts on a show across all the tracks and I was left highly impressed with the emotions his playing conveys. Likewise, Bobby’s delivery is amazing and alternates between eerie and soulful. There’s not a rotten egg in the bunch here and all the tracks reek of classic 70’s doom. The production has a distinct 70’s feel and the guitar sounds massive and monolithic.
After a long period where Pentagram was hit or miss, this is a revelation and an ass whipping combined. It’s great to hear these old masters together again and finding the fountain of youth together. If you call yourself a doom fan and don’t have this and all the classic Pentagram albums, you need to review your choices. Get this, scurry to the dankest of sub-basements and crank this thing until the Day of Reckoning. Ponderous, fucking ponderous.