Pentagram’s influence on the doom metal genre cannot be understated. They were the first in the genre (outside of Black Sabbath), but have stayed mostly underground through the years. However, the band has received much deserved recognition since doom metal has become more popular recently, and the documentary Last Days Here from a few years ago. Their 70s and 80s material is some of the best in the genre. Relentless, their aptly-named debut, is the album I’d spin to introduce someone to doom metal.
Unfortunately, their records for the last twenty years have been relatively stale. Whether because they used up all their good material on initial recordings, or the decline of Bobby Liebling, they haven’t been as great in the studio recently. Pentagram just unleashed their latest LP, Curious Volume. The record had me curious, as there are a few songs written by Bobby from fifty years ago. I was willing to give the new Pentagram album a shot. After all, I love me some Pentagram!
Like all albums from the ‘gram, there is a mixture of songs written by Bobby when he was young and newly written material. The biggest question a lot of people have is how Bobby sounds now that he has recently hit his 60s. While his current voice has an interesting worn aural aesthetic, age has not helped his voice. He just sounds sonically rusty. I don’t mind it too much, but he’s seen better days here.
The sound of Curious Volume is mostly hardened blues rock. Besides their doom material, that’s what Pentagram has done since the early days. Modernity (particularly the production) hasn’t help the band. I wish these songs were recorded in the era they were written. A good example of this is “Earth Flight,” which was originally recorded in 1974, but was re-recorded for this release. Listening to them side by side, it is clear the old-school version is superior. But we’re not here to talk could of, would of, should of.
As for the album itself, the songwriting doesn’t have the weight of classic Pentagram. The riffs don’t pull me in. It feels like a strong effort, but musically bit of a snore fest. I do like the lyrics though. Bobby is very aware of his mortality and there is a lot of poetic blues throughout. It is clear how personal and relevant the songs are, given the hard times he is going through nowadays. “Walk Alone,” “Close the Casket,” and the title number contain some real depth. “Misunderstood” is an energetic track in which Bobby’s multi-tracked vocals make for a great chorus.
It is unfortunate that this record is mediocre, maybe it’ll grow on me though. I know I’ve made constant comparisons to old Pentagram, but Relentless is the gold standard of doom. However, the band in recent times has traded most of their doom for straight hard/blues rock though. That seems to be my main issue. Pentagram is still one of my favorite bands and I look forward to seeing them live again soon. They put on a hell of a show and Bobby Liebling is a crazy motherfucker on stage. Still a great front man and an excellent band.
1. Lay Down and Die
2. The Tempter Push
3. Dead Bury Dead
4. Earth Flight
5. Walk Alone
6. Curious Volume
8. Close the Casket
10. The Devil’s Playground
11. Because I Made It
Bobby Liebling – Vocals
Victor Griffin – Guitar
Greg Turley – Bass
“Minnesota” Pete Campbell – Drums