The first track on ”Curious Volume”; (the follow up the Pentagram’s first album of their remarkable comeback ”Last Rites”) ‘Lay Down and Die’ is something the band has never quite done,
Struggling off and on since 1971 in the face of more line-up changes than The Fall and enough trials and tribulations to fill a novel by
Dickens the one constant has been troubled lead singer Bobby Liebling and this album, especially lyrically, is as much Leibling as it is Pentagram. For more on him and how these album came into being try to hunt down the movie ”Last Days Here” which is like the Anvil documentary, but with a whole load more crack and heartbreaking failure.
Pentagram then, are underground legends, doom metal pioneers and perennial underdogs forever chewing off their own tales. Still with
what appears to be an album of new material (we’ll come back to that) and European tour dates imminent, let’s focus on the Pentagram of 2015,
rather than all that messy history. And wow, Pentagram are very ‘now’, with most of this record sounding like the last Bring Me The Horizon
album! Not really, suckers – It’s the expected mix of vintage US doom (‘The Tempter Push’, ‘Dead Bury Dead’) and even hairier stuff like the
trucker boogie of ‘Earth Flight’ and sleazy proto-punk of ‘Misunderstood’ and the excellent ‘Sufferin’. There’s a surprisingly good Dio impersonation too on ‘Walk Alone’ which is an unexpected highlight.
The key track here ‘Close The Casket’ is a brutally honest and quite poetic statement of intent from Liebling, in which he buries his former junkie self and becomes the man he wants to be and is today. It’s beautifully crafted and very uplifting, whilst still being doom metal to it’s core.
Liebling‘s voice manages the various styles perfectly well, although there is a rheumy, slurred undertone to most of his singing, not dissimilar to that other walking corpse Lemmy. As I mentioned before although this is supposedly a new album, some of the tracks, lyrically especially, sound like they were penned in an earlier century, so either Leibling has been channelling his younger self or some of these songs have been kicking around a long time. With the very stop start history of their quite scant recording career that had often been the case, but it doesn’t really harm the album. The musical and lyrical variation helps the album maintain your interest as the songs are fine, but few are classic ear worm material, ‘Sufferin’ aside. If a have a major quibble with record, it’s that the playing itself strikes me as merely perfunctory and lacks both the flash or dirt of Pentagram‘s best moments.
Unsurprisingly several of the tracks on “Curious Volume” including ‘Sufferin’ and ‘Lay Down and Die’ deal with the frustrations of being stuck, unable to get out on the road and rock. It would be churlish to be too hard on this record as with a bit of luck, and a lot of help from friends and family, it looks like Leibling and Pentagram will be singing these songs from our stages soon to promote this small miracle of an album.