Pentagram – Last Rites (Metal Blade Records)

Thursday, 21st March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Always some type of hub-bub about how Pentagram singer Bobby Liebling is lucky to be alive, is finally clean, etc., and so on, so much so, that it nearly overshadows his music. Amazing how some people are able to flood their body with substances and live to fight another day, which makes Liebling a true survivor in every sense of the word. Nevertheless, Last Rites is the first “real” studio album from the long-running (read: the 70s) doom mongers since 2004’s Show ‘Em How, and it’s a sharp left turn from the traditional Sabbath-hogging doom sound the scene is so privy to producing.

Joined by former Cathedral and current Place of Skulls guitarist Victor Griffin (essentially Liebling’s right-hand man), Pentagram’s bluesy, melody-soaked sound easily eclipses the regular doom routine of shuffling in the fuzz and elongated jams. The bulk of Last Rites is compact and song-oriented, with a handful of jams appearing to be clear-cut for FM radio play, most notably “Windmills and Chimes.”

Griffin lays down a smattering of hardened, tune-downed riffs on opener “Treat Me Right,” and the bouncy “Call the Man,” deserving a lot of credit for the album’s ability to find a spot of cohesion. As a vocalist, Liebling is hardly the technician, yet his bare-bones lyrical approach and weary caw make for some earnest moments, especially on the haunting “8.” He has some Jethro Tull in him (i.e. Ian Anderson) on “Walk In Blue Light” and considering the tread on his vocals (and body), Liebling turns in a worthy performance worth checking out for his penmanship alone.

Considering the doom scene’s natural tendency to rally around its brethren, expect Last Rites to enable Pentagram to enjoy a long touring cycle. Unbeknownst to these ears, but the band’s back catalog is a must-have in the pantheon of proto metal and 70’s hard rock, so for the here and now, Last Rites is a mini-milestone in itself for the pure fact it actually made it to tape.

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