Pentagram – Last Rites …   29 comments

Pentagram are the long-running American heavy metal band but you should know who they are by now, most famous as one of the pioneers of doom metal even though they were never really a doom band. The band was quite prolific in the underground scene of the 1970s, producing many demos and rehearsal tapes, but did not release a full-length album until reforming in the early 1980s with an almost completely new lineup. Throughout the band’s history the only constant member has been vocalist Bobby Liebling. The revolving lineup of Pentagram has featured many well-respected musicians in the local doom metal scene, with members spending time in other acts such as Raven, The Obsessed, Place of Skulls, Internal Void, and Spirit Caravan. The story behind Pentagram and Bobby Liebling is the stuff of legends, a hell of a lot has been written, some of it is true while a lot of other articles have been nothing but pure lies or based on rumor. The ‘Last Days Here’ movie which hopefully will soon be released on DVD gives a good insight to Bobby and why the band never made it big. Once you see the movie, you will understand why more clearly. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives with regard to the bands past, so lets celebrate the present and the future and their new album.

It is amazing to think this band is into their fifth decade as a band. The earliest seeds were planted with Liebling’s pre-Pentagram band, Stone Bunny’s  1970 album, ‘Nothing Left’. Sure it is not Pentagram but that is where the sound was born in many ways so to think 41 years later, Liebling is still doing the heavy rock is nothing short of a miracle especially considering all his drug issues and other dramas. The first thing most people will do with the ‘Last Rites’ album is compare it with the earlier classic releases like ‘Relentless’ and it is fair enough in this case. This album is not all new, far from it. ‘Into the Ground’ and the album closer ‘Nothing Left’ comes from Liebling and Stone Bunny’s ‘Nothing Left’ album, ‘Call the Man’ dates from demo tapes made in 1971, and ‘Walk in Blue Light’ and ‘Everything’s Turning to Night’ are already available as raw versions on Relapse Records’ ‘First Daze Here’ compilation album released in 2002. That leaves 6 new songs but strangely enough, most of those sound old too as they mostly keep with the original Pentagram sound and style.

The album starts with ‘Treat Me Right’ which is a straight-forward rocker, it gets ‘Last Rites’ off to a positive start and tells you – the listener that Pentagram are indeed back and still have some fire in the belly. The song is nothing special however but it rocks in a old-school way and is a good opening tune. ‘Call the Man’ is the next one up and its main feature is the killer guitar work coming from Victor Griffin, and the song’s great groove. Liebling’s voice has aged a little but still sounds great and the band seem to be playing what comes naturally. They are not trying to re-capture the Pentagram sound of old but they are not shying away from it either, what you get is something in the middle of 70’s Pentagram and something modern. The production backs this up even more as Pentagram have never sounded this polished before but it also sounds organic and real. Bassist Greg Turley and newish drummer Albert Born’ hold up their end without being flashy but that suits the sound of the band perfectly.

Moving into the album’s third track titled ‘Into the Ground’ and the band gets about as doomy and as close to the old Pentagram sound as possible which in some ways makes this one of the highlights of the CD. It is pure old-school heavy rock riffing coming from Griffin and again, it is nothing fancy or ground-breaking but is exactly what you want to hear from a band like this. Three tracks in and not a misstep so far, even Liebling seems more at ease in the vocal department. I have no idea in what order these tracks were recorded but Liebling seems more relaxed in some songs than others and it is these ones where he delivers his best vocals. ‘8’ is another highlight and what I think is the best of the new songs. Everything about this tune is perfection right down to the guitar tone of Griffin’s. One of the old songs is next, ‘Everything’s Turning to Night’ and it is the albums first semi-dud track, I am not sure why they wanted this song on the album as I don’t think it was that good the first time around, it is average, by-the-numbers stuff and pretty forgettable.

‘Windmills and Chimes’ is next and the album hits its low-point right here. Bobby Liebling has never had a voice that can handle power-ballads and that is exactly the kind of tune this is. There is some really nice, emotional playing going on from the whole band but the song comes off sounding tepid and bland, some people will go for it but it does nothing for me. ‘American Dream’ is Victor Griffin’s baby right down to the lyrics, Griffin proved himself to be an accomplished singer – songwriter many years ago when Place Of Skulls first started up so he has nothing left to prove really but this is a great track. The lyrics which are a comment on corruption and the way the American government is constantly getting in the way of small business owners, in effect destroying the so-called ‘American Dream.’ Griffin is speaking from personal experience being a business owner himself with Griffin Cycles. Track 8, ‘Walk in Blue Light’ gets the album back to pure classic Pentagram doomy hard rock and it must be noted as HP Taskmaster did @ The Obelisk, the duo of ‘Windmills And Chimes’ and ‘American Dream’ really throw this album off course. I would take it one step further though and include ‘Everything’s Turning To Night’ too, it is three tracks in a row of varying quality but also three disjointed tracks, genre-wise. This really spoils the flow of the album and I can see many people hitting the stop button during one of these tracks, especially ‘Windmills And Chimes.’

‘Horseman’ follows on nicely after ‘Walk In The Blue Light’ and the ‘Last Rites’ album is finally rolling smoothly again. ‘Horseman’ would be one of the best tracks on the album if it wasn’t for some irritating backing vocals. They make the same mistake in ‘Everything’s Turning to Night’ too and they just sound out-of-place but at least ‘Horsemen’ is a strong tune, the other tune, like I have already mentioned is pure filler material in my book. ‘Death in 1st Person’ tries something different, effectively splitting the song into two distinct sections. The first has creepy spoken words from Liebling over the top of more cool guitar work of Griffin. The song’s second half picks up the pace and its energy for a kick ass rocking finish, this is a fairly ambitious track by Pentagram standards and could prove to be a live favorite in the future. ‘Nothing Left’ ends the album on a high note, it’s a oldie but a classic track brought back to life for the ‘Last Rites’ album.

When it’s all over, the album is fairly short and despite its average middle section it is a pretty easy album to sit through but how does it rate overall? If you sit this album next to the other 6 full length albums in the Pentagram back catalog, it stands up very well. I would certainly put it in the top three but sorry, it is far from being the number one. The three tracks in the middle of the album really disrupt the flow and the truth is there is some average moments throughout the disc. I think the reality is they will never surpass the magic of the ‘Relentless’ album but considering all that Liebling has been through, you couldn’t expect it to. This is still a strong album and I am sure some of the Pentagram faithful will rate this album of the year, for my money it has too much to compete with it to be rated that highly. The album deserves a 9 rating just for the fact that if even got made after all this time but I have to be honest, I can only give this a 7 and it is a low 7 at that. I am just glad they are back and doing what they do……………….7/10
Pentagram @ MySpace
Metal Blade Records

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Posted April 1, 2011 by doommantia in Pentagram

29 responses to “Pentagram – Last Rites …

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  1. I think an 8 rating is generous. Dont get me wrong, its a solid album with great moments. But after giving Last Rites many spins, I still cant remember any of it.

    Its like good Beef Stew…..without the meat & veggies!! Im left with a watered down version of what I have grown to love!!
    Sounds like Bobby joined Place of Skull instead of Pentagram getting back together.

    Maybe its me. Regardless…let the hate mail begin.

  2. To be honest I was only going to give it a 6.5 or a 7 but I pushed it to 8 in light of the light I never thought I would ever hear another Pentagram album.

    But you are right it sounds more POS than Pentagram.

  3. I am a huge fan of Pentagram but I don't like this album much at all. It is a huge disappointment to me. Everything on is so ordinary, nothing stands out at all and Bobby's vocals sound tired. I would have given it a 3 or 4 at the most.

  4. LOL, I thought I would have been alone on this but I don't like it either. Just seems like cheese-wiz stuff to me ha ha.

  5. Glad its not just me. I been reading alot of reviews and all been pretty good. Im just not feeling it.

  6. Just finished listening to the album for 3rd or 4th time…

    Many things can change but…

    Unfortunately, I didn't find much Pentagram on it… The style of the voice is different and Griffin's sound just doesn't fit in the true spirit of the band.

    A bright example is “Call the Man” you can listen to the original song from the rehearsals. The new guitar work might have destroyed a solid track…

    Maaany people I've chatted with like the album enormously!!!

    I 'll right a full review soon just wanted to share my first impressions…

  7. Meh, I think it is very mediocre. The problem is Pentagram are a real hipster band at the moment so people will say its great no matter how weak it is. Give it 6 months and it will be forgotten about.

  8. I've listened to it & listened to it and can't understand the generally high reviews. So if I read one review that's somewhat meh, I'm starting to think it's more honest. I'd have to echo the “anon” above, I think it's just cool to dig Pentagram right now.

  9. Even though I gave it a 8 originally, I must admit the more I listen, the less I like it. I will be dropping back my rating to a 7 now. It is already lost its shine. Also, it is interesting to note that nearly every single person that I have spoke to recently who has seen them live has told they sucked. Funny you never read that online in any Pentagram articles.

  10. I think most just dont have the scrote to dislike a band with the stature of the mighty pentagram. I call it what it is. It is very average that is all!!And this is the main reason why I respect the opinion of the Doommantia site. Ed you have always been honest with your reviews. YOU GOT BALLS!!! lol

  11. Actually I think I am too soft on bands to be honest.

  12. They sucked at Roadburn, I mean they were no better than any other shitty bar band you could see.

  13. Very weak album.

  14. Just found this site, amazing, the best I have ever seen. Congratulations.

    But this Pentagram is so average, I don't know why people fuss over this band so much. I have never really liked them anyway but I heard this album in full at a friends house and it sounds very bland.

  15. Hipster rock! It is cool to like them right now. Give it a year and they will fade into obscurity all over again. I hope so, they bore me and they have nothing to do with doom metal IMO.

    And Liebling gives me the creeps lol.

  16. ha ha I have never liked Pentagram. Always thought they were overrated to death, much like Witchcraft. It seems I am not alone.

  17. Wow I never thought this would happen. 12 out of 16 comments give this album a thumbs down.

  18. To Suzy –

    I agree, Bobby Liebling is creepy lol. I think he is not only ugly but one of the most sinister looking people in rock. If he hung out outside a playground, he would get arrested on the spot lol.

    Pentagram though are average, I agree and very overrated. They have produced some fine songs but maybe only 10 in a entire career IM0 so I don't see why they are worshiped the way they are.

  19. I totally disagree. Within the so-called 'doom hardrock' scene this is definitely one of the better albums of 2011. It sounds like Pentagram, not POS. Ofcourse there are comparisons, so what? 2 members are the same.. Bobby sounds like Bobby, actually delivering a very solid, great vocal performance. And Victor sounds like Victor. Pentagram has evolved, just like the Beatles evolved from Lalala in '62 to psychedelic in 69.
    People are like sheep, one person starts criticising them, and suddenly all Pentagram haters come out and give negative comments. Is it now hipster to not like them or something? Totally undeserved, this album is NOT average, compared to their other stuff this is one of their better efforts, and time will prove this I'm sure. Its a matter of taste, but I think Windmills and Chimes is a great song, adding more debt and variety to their catalogue, and with great emotional vocals by Bobby.

    But what even more surprises me is that people start saying Pentagram sucks live?? I saw Pentagram 2 years ago, they were good. I saw them at Roadburn, and they were amazing, and all MY friends thought it was one of the best shows of Roadburn. And many people agree if you check the lists on the Roadburn website or the Roadburn facebook. Check out vids on youtube, you will see Pentagram are very tight, very entertaining, just great! Check the crowd at their show in Greece going totally crazy, it looks like a punk show with people pogo-ing, stagediving, etc. I will even drive hours to go see them again in Brussels tomorrow, they were that great! And I've seen EVERY possible band in the genre… btw I'm not a hipster.
    Marc from Amsterdam

  20. Yay finally somebody comes out with something positive, I was getting worried ha ha.

    Honestly the album is still good, just not great like I was hoping but each to their own.

  21. Hey Marc from Amsterdam..

    I am not a hipster either and I love the early Pentagram stuff, I just think the new album is ordinary. Yes it beats a lot of other stuff but there has already been a dozen or so albums that blow this away. Just my 2 cents worth. I do agree it is bandwagon jumping here, it happens with hating bands just as much as loving them. I think there is some bands though that many people feel are very overrated so when a hate thread emerges, they jump on it. Pentagram are one of those bands, the same has happened before to bands like Witchcraft, Clutch, My Dying Bride, Cathedral and more recently Ghost. Just because a large section of critics like them, doesn't mean everybody to follow like sheep. I know many people who hate Saint Vitus but you wouldn't know it by reading what is one most doom sites.

  22. Just to clarify, I am and always will be a huge fan of Pentagram. I am NO hater by no means. Maybe they did evolve. Personal I would not say evolve, I would say “change”. Cause they have for sure changed from there 70s music that help define the heavyness that we all love. Change is not always good in my opinion. Last Rites is a good album. And I am stoked as hell to have lived to hear another release from the mighty Pentagram! But if I find myself wanting to hear some pentagram, I will probably be grabbing the First Daze album over Last Rites.

  23. So… now Pentagram are a hipster band and now it's cool to scorn them.
    Last Rites is not as good as their two first albums but it's a good album indeed… at least for me.

  24. I haven't listened all the CD, but I have listened 4 songs and I think it's f***ing amazing! Of course you dislike it, because it is a doom metal forum and Pentagram stopped to play doom after Day Of Reckoning. But times change, and they began to play an exellent modern metal, specially in CDs like Be Forewarned, the underrated Show Em How or this new one. I'm sure it is by far one of the best CDs of the year, along with Wasting Light of Foo Fighters (OK, I know most of you must hate Foo Fighters, but let's face it, they are an amazing band) and it is what we need now, ROCK, GOOD MUSIC! And I TOTALLY agree with Marc, excellent review.
    LONG LIFE PENTAGRAM AND HEAVY METAL!

  25. I rate Show Em How much much higher than this album, that is one of my favorite Pentagram albums. And Poo Fighters, amazing – really? I must be missing something. I haven't heard anything from them that is more the generic mall-music. And you shouldn't put Pentagram and Poo Fighters in the same sentence, it is a insult to Pentagram IMO.

  26. I have never been a part of this cult known as Bobby Lielbling and Pentagram. I have never liked them, they just sound like standard pub-rock to me but I think the early albums are much better than this new one. It sounds too much like a combination of Place Of Skulls leftovers and second-rate Pentagram songs.

  27. OMG Please tell me that did NOT just happen!!!!!! No Phukin way did Foo Fighters get mentioned in the same sentence as Pentagram.

    Well, there you have it. No wander I dislike Last Rites. Cause it sounds like Foo Fighters. Or as Anon said “excellent modern metal”

    I assure you it will not be in my top 20 of 2011. I have already heard 20 new albums that smash this one. But im sure it will make Rolling Stone Magazine charts. Along with all the other “excellent modern metal”.

  28. The only new foo fighters song ive heard is ROPE off the new Wasting Light album. And it sounds like they ripped off the whole song from Rush. So I would not call that “modern metal” either.

  29. Anybody ever think that maybe people are just sick of reading about them?

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