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Pentagram - "Curious Volume" (CD)

Pentagram - "Curious Volume" CD cover image

"Curious Volume" track listing:

1. Lay Down and Die
2. The Tempter Push
3. Dead Bury Dead
4. Earth Flight
5. Walk Alone
6. Curious Volume
7. Misunderstood
8. Close the Casket
9. Sufferin'
10. Devil's Playground
11. Because I Made It

Reviewed by on December 10, 2015

"...after forty years of making music, Pentagram still has a few ideas, certainly enough to show why the band is still one of the genre’s best."

If there is one thing that can be said about the members of Pentagram it is that they are survivors. Although the group started in 1971, they didn’t release a full-length until fourteen years later, during the mid-80s when doom truly took off as a genre. Still, back then doom wasn’t out in the open like it is today and Pentagram remained largely a cult act. Pentagram has managed to squeak out an album every few years amidst turmoil such as lineup changes and singer Bobby Liebling’s substance dependence problems.

How does a band stay together for over forty years when faced with such adversity? Well, they must truly believe in what they are doing, as do the fans of their music. Also, the group received a major push when the “Last Days Here” documentary aired, exposing the band to a much larger demographic Liebling has been able to keep it together for several tours (manager Sean “Pellet” Pelletier’s encouragement certainly helped) and now comes the release of ninth album “Curious Volume.”

“Curious Volume” seems a reflection of good times. While there are doom-and-gloom tracks like “The Devil’s Playground,” “Close Casket” and “Curious Volume,” tracks that dig deep into the earth seeking solace on a sunless world, much of the album is fun and upbeat. “Lay Down And Die” has a southern. bluesy groove with infectious chorus lines and a powerful guitar bridge. “Earth Flight” has a ‘60s psychedelic appeal. “The Temple Push” starts with a Clutch-like riff and features slick guitar scaling by longtime guitarist Victor Griffin.

Bobby Liebling’s voice sounds the strongest it has in decades, but what really propels this album is Griffin’s riffs. “The Devil’s Playground” shows the axe master erect diabolic string bends not far removed from Danzig. Griffin’s notes quietly lace the airwaves with tactile fuzz on the title track before hitting huge notes resulting in a large dynamic. A descending scale on “Dead Bury Your Dead” and a bridge that sounds like The Obsessed makes for some of the best riffs on the album. “Misunderstood” starts like Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” but takes a definite punk turn. The solos and melodies add another dimension to the heavy riffing.

The rhythm section of Greg Turley and “Minnesota” Pete Campbell do a whole lot in terms of backing Griffin’s huge riffs. Turley’s thumping chords can often be made out between gaps in instrumentation as heard on songs such as “Curious Volume.” Pete Campbell keeps the blues swagger in full swing. “Earth Flight” shows the rhythm section perfectly playing off each other at the beginning of the song, Turley closely following Campbell’s pounding lead while Griffin minimizes his guitar notes.

“Curious Volume” is mainly a straight ahead heavy rock album. While it has moments of doomful dirges, it is mostly upbeat and fun. First listens had me wanting more down-tempo darkness, but a closer listen reveals a diverse album where none of the songs really sound the same. Some doom groups suffer from lack of tempo and the songs all sound the identical from track to track. I guess after forty years of making music, Pentagram still has a few ideas, certainly enough to show why the band is still one of the genre’s best.

Highs: Victor Griffin's riffs are some of the best in the business.

Lows: The album could benefit from just a bit more darkness.

Bottom line: A diverse doom album that is both fun and menacing.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)