Pentagram – “Curious Volume” (Peaceville Records)
There are few people around who can hold a candle to Bobby Liebling, founder of legendary 70s band Pentagram, famed as being one of the pioneers of doom metal, at least in the US. Over the next 40 years, the band attained almost cult status both for their material as well as their erratic behavior, not in the least owed to heavy drug use, especially by Liebling who often was too stoned to play gigs, resulting in the band being a promoter’s nightmare and causing in turn, band instability. I actually wonder if anyone (including Bobby) can guess how many people have been in the band at one point or another! Still, when it did come together the magic of the ‘Ram was truly something else – from Bobby’s distinct weird wailing vocals that easily gave Ozzy a run for his money in the drug fueled insanity league to the thick down tuned fuzz toned guitars that delivered both a sound and songs to match that no one had ever heard before. Mixing late 60s psychedelic rock with Blue Cheer’s heaviness and later the likes of Sir Lord Baltimore and Sabbath, the formula was always there even if Pentagram themselves were not placed to capitalize upon it as drug addiction and instability ultimately led to the demise of the band. However, when one looks at the sheer number of offshoot groups and projects that Pentagram spawned from Bedemon to Place Of Skulls to The Obsessed it speaks bounds about the magic of the ‘Ram family! Around the turn of the century Liebling found God and slowly found himself too, guest vocalling slots as he exorcised the final drug demons from his system, all of which was captured vividly in the moving, award winning rockumentary “Last Days Here”. With legendary guitarist Victor Griffin finding his way back to the ‘Ram family the two released “Last Rites”, although not without the usual band turbulence! Returning to Peaceville, whom the band last worked with in 1994 on “Be Forewarned”, Pentagram these days shows a clean band in pretty much every sense, right down to having a no upside crosses clause in their riders! More importantly, Liebling is healthy enough to tread the stage again, and crucially, even at 61 years old, his unmistakable voice remains as true as it ever was. Griffin too, it seems has found the Lord, although his dark n fuzzy guitar would definitely say otherwise with its thick, proto doom sound on classic ‘Ram tracks like occult doom rock of ‘The Devils Playground’ or the 70s proto heavy metal of closer ‘Because I Made It’, complete with far out soloing. If it’s true that the songs are sourced from Liebling’s rumored stash written between ’68 and ’73 then I definitely believe it as they sound straight from that era! However, “Curious Volume” goes well beyond expectations to include the stoner emo of ‘Dead Bury Dead’ to the more upbeat 60s ‘Earth Flight’ and the hard rockin’ ‘Sufferin’, where Greg Turley’s heavy, booming bass and ‘Minnesota’ Campbell’s drums get to pound it something heavy!! I’m not sure if this will be Pentagram’s last album, but if it is, they have gone out on a high note, providing a highly respectable and solid album with material inspired from their 4 decades complete with an authentic sound original to these purveyors. Furthermore, it does much to redeem their sins of the past thus keeping their legacy intact and until the good Lord says otherwise, the new Pentagram is bound for reclaiming lost glory once more.