Pentagram are an American doom band formed in the early 1970's by vocalist Bobby Liebling.

Relentless Pentagram - Relentless (Peaceville) 1985/1993/2005

1. Death Row (4:14)
2. All Your Sins (4:38)
3. Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram) (3:10)
4. The Ghoul (5:14)
5. Relentless (3:50)
6. Run My Course (2:46)
7. Sinister (4:33)
8. The Deist (3:48)
9. You're Lost I'm Free (2:18)
10. Dying World (4:00)
11. 20 Buck Spin (4:20)

"Relentless" has a long and convoluted history about it. Pentagram are an American doom band formed in the early 1970's by vocalist Bobby Liebling. Their original line-up consisted of Bobby Liebling - vocals, Geof O'Keef - drums, Vincent McAllister - guitar and Greg Mayne - bass. The band's classic line-up, which recorded this release, consisted of Bobby Liebling, drummer Joe Hasselvander and bassist Martin Swaney. Though they never saw huge commercial success in the 70's, the did end up gaining a cult following. The band broke up for a spell at the end of the 1970's, at which time Joe Hasselvander hooked up with Victor Griffin, a teenage guitarist from Tennessee. Griffin had been writing songs and trying to put together a band called Death Row. After some time, Griffin and Hasselvander hooked up with Swaney and Liebling and Death Row was a fully functioning doom metal machine. Death Row were known for their theatrical and bizarre shows. The band recorded their 1982 cassette demo "All Your Sins" that was recorded in two sessions. (Side One in ’81, Side Two in ’82. They also recorded a second, 3-song demo in 1983 called "Whore".). At some point before the first album Bobby convinced his band mates to change the band's name to Pentagram. The album that is now known as "Relentless" was issued on wax as Pentagram's eponymous titled album by Pentagram Records in ’85. The album was eventually picked up and re-issued by Peaceville Records in 1993 with a new mix, altered track listing, new cover and a retitled as "Relentless". As such, Pentagram’s full-length album came out under a different title four years after the first songs were recorded under a completely different moniker, and nearly 15 years after Liebling formed Pentagram, and then again under another different title eight years after that. Sheesh! Quite the history lesson. 

Pentagram's sound is firmly based on 1970's heavy metal and is a cross between Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath, though they certainly recall Sabbath more so than any other band. The music is slow, thick, dark and heavy. Heavily distorted guitar riffs are the catalyst for the sound. Guitarist Victor Griffin having studied at the Tony Iommi school of power-chord sludge. However, some of his riffs are more melodic and less discordant than Sabbath's. Griffin is responsible for a little more than half of the music and lyrics on "Relentless". Vocalist/founder Bobby "Plugie" Liebling is credited with writing the other half of the music. His voice is charismatic and distinctive, though not overly aggressive, nor does he exhibit a wide range. However, he does lay down some nice vocal melodies to bring the sludgy music to life. The rhythm section of bassist Martin Swaney and drummer Joe Hasselvander basically sticks to the groove of the song, giving the album it's underlying thundering quality. As might be guessed by the band's moniker and their overall image, the song lyrics are rather dark, though not nearly as occult-ish as one might imagine. Sabbath may be the roots of doom and stoner rock, but Pentagram defines it.

Victor Griffin went on to form Place of Skulls. Joe Hasselvander has played with many different bands, but is most known for his work with Raven

Day of Reckoning Pentagram - Day of Reckoning (Peaceville) 1987/2005  

1. Day of Reckoning (2:43) 
2. Evil Seed (4:38) 
3. Broken Vows (4:37) 
4. When the Screams Come (3:42) 
5. Burning Savior (9:08) 
6. Madman (4:17) 
7. Wartime (5:25)

"Day of Reckoning" is the second full length album from Pentagram. On the original vinyl issue, Joe Hasselvander only played drums on one track, "Burning Savior". Stuart Rose recording the drums on all the rest. However, Hasselvander re-recorded drums on all tracks, except "Burning Savior" for the 1993 Peaceville Records re-issue. As such, the CD version is a completely different mix than the Napalm Records LP. 

The music contained herein is in much the same vein as "Relentless", dark, sludgy, walls of doom metal. Pentagram's sound is much more minimalistic than many doom bands. Rather than progressive songwriting or melodic tendencies, the music is moody, sedate and heavy. Opener "Day Of Reckoning" is the most up-tempo number on the record and is also the shortest, clocking in at less than three minutes long. The Victor Griffin penned "Evil Seed" is one of the band's signature tracks, in my opinion.The song is a funeral dirge the explores depression, despair and desolation. The song is heavy as a steel girder, but moody accentuated by Bobby Liebling's subdued and often whispered vocals. The song ends with an Iommi-inspired guitar solo. Liebling's "Burning Savior" is the album's opus, and the longest song on the album. The song starts off with an ominous acoustic intro and quickly builds into a wall of glorious electric doom. The nine minute long song never drags and includes a wicked guitar solo towards the end of the song. 

As with the debut, the lyrics are dark. The band seems to have a fascination with mysticism and religion. The songs seem to focus on the never ending fight between good and evil, sin and virtue, the divine and the demonic. "Burning Savior" explores the subject of a soul being dragged to hell. "How long can you keep pretending, you can't live by the rules you're bending. All your prayers do no good, when you don't do what you should. Lucifer lives, it's no illusion, your mind is in confusion, thoughts denied all come true, when he takes you soul from you." 

"Day of Reckoning" is considered by many fans to be the band's finest hour and I wouldn't necessarily disagree. With "Day of Reckoning" Pentagram set the standard of how traditional doom metal should sound.

A couple of facts about "Day of Reckoning":

1) the tracklisting was slightly different between the original vinyl release and the later Peaceville re-issues, and...

2) there have been 3 different covers for this album between 1987 (mortuary photo with black logo), 1993 (black and gold baphomet cover) and 2005 (mortuary photo with white logo).

Last Rites Pentagram - Last Rites (Metal Blade) 2011

1. Treat Me Right (2:32)
2. Call the Man (3:49)
3. Into the Ground (4:21)
4. 8 (5:02)
5. Everything's Turning to Night (3:18)
6. Windmills and Chimes (4:33)
7. American Dream (4:33)
8. Walk in Blue Light (4:59)
9. Horseman (3:38)
10. Death in 1st Person (4:01)
11. Nothing Left (3:37)
12. All Your Sins [Reprise] (:57)

As if nearly three decades hadn't passed since Pentagram's debt, "Last Rites"is exactly what anyone would expect from Bobby Liebling and Victor Griffin. Pentagram still deliver old school dark heavy rock with obvious references back to early Sabbath. Also on board is drummer Tim Tomaselli and bassist Greg Turley, who has also worked with Griffin in Place of Skulls. From the only slightly up-tempo "Treat Me Right" to the outright doom of "American Dream" and "Nothing Left" to the melancholic and dark balladry of "8" and "Windmills and Chimes", everything is doom, gloom, heavy chords, emotive guitar solos and pounding rhythms. Of course what give Pentagram their sound is Griffin's heavy, gnarly guitar sound and Leibling's classic vocals. Liebling's voice sounds aged and worn, which only adds to the compelling nature of the album. Pentagram isn't an American Idol pop band. Rather this is raw, heavy rock and roll. Pentagram are one of the originators of the doom sound. 

I was lucky enough to catch the band on a rare tour in support of "Last Rites" through the Southwest US. in 2013. Was fortunate enough to meet Victor Griffin at the club and had him sign my "Day of Reckoning" vinyl. Did not get to meet Bobby Liebling, but hope to someday. 

Victor Griffin & Bobby Liebling, 2011

Curious Volume Pentagram - Curious Volume (Peaceville) 2015

1.   Lay Down and Die (2:55)
2.   The Tempter Push (4:09)
3.   Dead Bury Dead (4:38)
4.   Earth Flight (2:57)
5.   Walk Alone (3:21)
6.   Curious Volume (4:21)
7.   Misunderstood (3:21)
8.   Close the Casket (4:13)
9.   Sufferin' (3:21)
10. Devil's Playground (4:38)
11. Because I Made It (4:23)

After kicking his debilitating addiction, Bobby Liebling finally seems to have a solid and committed band. "Curious Volume" is the second in a row of solid, sludgy, doom metal releases from the band that has been to hell and back several times over. Longtime guitarist Victor Griffin is still cranking out the Iommi-inspired riffs and leads. Also returning from "Last Rites" line-up is bassist Greg Turley (Place of Skulls). 

For me this album was a bit of a grower. The first couple listens didn't grab me by the jugular like "Last Rites" did. However, with the third or fourth listen I was suddenly hooked and I began to want to hear it over and over again. And that is exactly what I did. Over a two-week period the CD just didn't leave my car player and the vinyl saw repeated plays at home as well. Despite having the characteristic dark feel that is Pentagram, this album seems to be slightly more upbeat and less depressed. The album kicks off with two heavy rockers in "Lay Down and Die" and "The Tempter's Push". "The Tempter's Push" reminds me of classic 80's Trouble. These two songs have the more positive tone I was sensing and may be the reason this album wasn't knocking me over like a hammer to the head. However, once past those two tracks, the rest of the album really drew me in, and in the end had me enjoying those first two cuts more as well. 

The Biblically referenced "Dead Bury Dead" is simply fantastic, or in this case doom-tastic. This is Griffin and Liebling firing on all cylinders, weaving a web with the interplay between riffs and vocals. "Misunderstood" is a curious track in that it is an up-tempo song and has a bit of a punk vibe. I wouldn't be surprised if The Stooges weren't an influence on this track in particular. This track also has the more up-beat, and dare I say fun vibe that is not exactly a trait of Pentagram. In fact, I wasn't even sure if this was a Pentagram original when I first heard it and had to go back and check the credits to the song, which belong to Griffin alone. Heavy tracks like the title track and "Close the Casket" have the darker tone that anyone would expect from this band. The trio of tracks that close the album, "Sufferin", "Devil's Playground" and "Because I Made It" are dark, heavy and feature some of Griffin's finest guitar work. 

The production is modern and clean, but not so clean as to rob the band of their dark, heavy vibe. However, some bands simply sound better as lo-fi bands, and Pentagram is one such band. (Venom is another that comes to mind.) Thankfully the band's loose approach to recording keeps things from sounding too "clean".  It must also be noted that the album doesn't overstay it's welcome. The songs aren't overly long and drawn out and the overall album isn't overly long either. After all is said and done, "Curious Volume" leave the listener wanting for more, rather than being worn out and bore.d "Curious Volume" is a solid record and one of the finest heavy metal records to be released in 2015. 

Related collections:
Place of Skulls | Victor Griffin | Raven
| In-Graved

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