Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pentagram Week, Part 4: Review Your Choices

Bobby Liebling may be his own worst enemy but you can't accuse him of giving up for too long. Having been coaxed out of a drug-induced retirement by drummer-turned-instrumentalist Joe Hasselvander, Review Your Choices is the band's fourth full-length studio album and the first of two to feature only two musicians as Hasselvander plays all the instruments that accompany Liebling's tortured warbling. It's a ballsy move for a group of their reputation though it still results one of their more unstable efforts.

In a way similar to Sabbath's Born Again, Review Your Choices is one of Pentagram's heaviest albums and also one of their most poorly produced. Like the debut before it, the sound is quite raw but it doesn't have the same balance. Hasselvander is a more than competent guitarist though his tone is rather stilted when you consider the more rhythmic approach combined with its overwhelming presence in the mix. Bobby's voice was also pretty shot at this point, resulting in an odd drawl that sounds less like a doomy Dickie Peterson and more like a really stoned Ian Anderson.

The band was also really starting to use the 70s material as a crutch at this point. While the tracks are pretty well written and always proved to be strong additions to previous efforts, they worked best when challenged by great songs written with the current lineup or when the production suited their inclusion. The title track fits in really well with its more laid back approach but classics like "Forever My Queen" and "Living In A Ram's Head" are given a big disservice by this production job.

And like Be Forewarned before it, there may be a few too many tracks though most of them are pretty decently written. There is a little less variety than before as the songs are evenly divided between fast rockers and longer doom tracks. "Burning Rays" and "Mow You Down" are among the best entries though the oppressive riffs on "Gorgon's Slave" and "Downhill Slope" are also worth mentioning. A few songs like "Change Of Heart" and "Megalania" have some catchy riffs though the structures fall a little short of an essential status.

Pentagram has never made a less than solid album but this is where they really got tricky to recommend. You gotta give props to it and its successor for getting finished at all when you consider the absolute hell Hasselvander went through to make them, but it may be one of their weaker efforts. Whether you like this album or not will likely depend on your feelings on the production job. I can certainly get behind it but newcomers will need to review one of their earlier choices first.

"Burning Rays"
"Gorgon's Slave"
"Review Your Choices"
"Mow You Down"
"Downhill Slope"

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