Monday, October 6, 2014

Pentagram Week, Part 1: Relentless

Pentagram has had some terrible luck over the course of their forty year history. While their influence over doom metal may be second only to Black Sabbath, they will always be remembered as the 70s band who never got their due thanks to the antics of one Bobby Liebling. Hell, their 1985 debut wasn't even intended to be a Pentagram album, as the group of musicians had originally recorded it under the Death Row moniker. Either way, Relentless has become a true classic in the doom metal canon.

Seeing how this was originally recorded as a demo in 1982, it isn't too surprising that this is one of Pentagram's rawest efforts to date. The sound could be compared to Venom's first couple albums in that it has a dirty tone while allowing a balance between instruments. Martin Swaney's bass can barely be heard but Victor Griffin's guitar and Joe Hasselvander's loose drumming set a grim foundation set for Liebling's macabre delivery.

In a strange bit of irony, this fixture of doom is actually one of the band's faster paced albums and largely lacks the 70s flair that they're otherwise famous for. You sure won't find any speed or thrash metal on here, but songs like "The Deist" and the title track seem to take more cues from Judas Priest than Captain Beyond or Blue Cheer. There is also a touch of classic metal influence as a band like Manowar could probably match the gallops on "Death Row" if they took enough downers.

But even if Relentless is one of the band's odd ducks stylistically, it does contain the best songs they ever put out. "All Your Sins" is the quintessential Pentagram anthem as a groovy drum roll gives way to a blistering set of mid-tempo riffs and catchy vocal lines. From there, "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)" is an infectious romp and "The Ghoul" offers a percussive yet gloomy taste. 70s diehards will also appreciate the inclusion of "You're Lost, I'm Free" and the classic "20 Buck Spin" though they don't quite the same power as the tracks before them.

It may have taken forever for Pentagram to get its first full-length album out there, but the result is worthy of its legendary status. It may not be the band's best album, but it is one of their strongest and truly showcases their lineup at its best as a unit. The albums Saint Vitus and Candlemass released around the time may be better examples of 80s doom as we know it, but this one is essential listening.

"Death Row," "All Your Sins," "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)," "The Ghoul," and "The Deist"

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