Published Aug 26, 2015Pentagram are a band whose name conjures up almost mythical awe in the metal community; they're seen as the founders of modern doom, and one of the most important bands of all time. While there's no denying the impact this group had on forming heavy metal as we know it today, there are some other hard truths about these guys that fans don't like to talk about. Pentagram didn't actually put out a record until 15 years after forming, for example, and Bobby Liebling, their beloved vocalist, is pretty much a walking scandal. Now in 2015, here they are putting out another record, Curious Volume. It's a fitting title, as it's hard to tell quite what the group were going for with this one.
There are a couple of titles on this release that sound downright out of place considering the slow, creepy ambiance that Pentagram have become known for. "Lay Down and Die" sounds more like a Southern metal ballad in the vein of Pantera, and "Misunderstood" is annoyingly happy and poppy. A majority of it sounds like a mid-life crisis record, as though the dudes in Pentagram just now realized they've been making dark and depressing music their whole life, and suddenly want to swing into the cheery and accessible. For a band that has a giant cult following and is known for embracing the macabre, it all feels a little odd.
There are some good songs on the record, though. "Devil's Playground" is groovy and reminiscent of the early stuff — like Black Sabbath with an added kick. "Earth Flight" borrows tropes from modern doom, while the title track holds its own as catchy and memorable.
Yes, this record is listenable, and yes, it marks a very positive turn for the band, as Liebling is finally in good health and able to hold his own with the group and actually put out records. But one can't help but lament that Pentagram didn't make more records while they were young and relevant, instead of waiting so long to produce work that now sounds similar to other older bands writing comeback songs. Check this out if you are a devoted member of the Pentagram coven, but otherwise, stick to the classics. (Peaceville)