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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Album Review: Pentagram - Last Rites

Pentagram - Last Rites
2011 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

First things first: Pentagram's Day of Reckoning ought to be in every respectable metalhead and doom connoisseur's collection. K, with the obvious out of the way, let's move on.

It's argued in some minute corners that Pentagram should be crowned the forefathers of doom metal and not Black Sabbath. By now, such arguments become petty in light of the latter's doomtown-boomtown success, while Pentagram, like Saint Vitus and Cathedral after them, have been left to hold their ground as ambassadors for what a proper doom unit should sound like. Vitus and Cathedral are kinda-sorta retired or about to be, while Pentagram shows up now and then for another plod through voluminous fields of distorted dirge.

Held together through four decades of arcane gloom, power riffs and never-say-die yowling from founding principal Bobby Liebling, Pentagram in this day and age are a facsimile, albeit still a formidable one. Their newest offering ushered to the metal altar, Last Rites, isn't quite the dark messiah most listeners are hoping it will be. Last Rites is entertaining enough, but that's as far as we can praise it.

For Pentagram's eternal standing in the grand scheme of metal, Last Rites is one meter of maudlin after another. Yes, that's precisely the deal with this band. Still packing a potent aresenal, Liebling and Pentagram do what they do. Their work is not supposed to be flamboyant, nor overtly expressive. When they're on, they can stand in there and decimate ear canals. Thus Last Rites accomplishes its mission with a dossier of doom shtick that seldom few can replicate to full measure.

It's all about the buzzsawing chords, the panting tempos, the shrieking guitar pulls and Liebling's barely-harnessed vocal huffs on "Treat Me Right," "Nothing Left," "Into the Ground," "American Dream" and the picked-up jive of "Call the Man." When stripped down to an acoustic hum on "Windmills and Chimes," there's still a burning ember emitting from Liebling's stirred vocal ashes. At times, Liebling wallows, but given all the debauchery he's subjected himself to over the years, it's impressive he still has the chops.

Last Rites schleps on occasion (even by doom standards) and there is some redundancy to contend with, but it has its heavy heart pumping in the right place. Or is it rite place?

Rating: ***1/2

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