Friday, October 10, 2014

Pentagram Week, Part 5: Sub-Basement

Pentagram's fifth full-length album seems to parallel Day of Reckoning in some ways. The second of the two collaborations between Joe Hasselvander and Bobby Liebling, it was released just two years after Review Your Choices and shows the duo getting a little more comfortable with their circumstances. It's not quite a classic but it just might be the band's most underrated venture to date.

Pentagram's image and style haven't changed all that much but Sub-Basement is one of their most upbeat albums. They've certainly had faster songs before but "Drive Me To The Grave" has a borderline thrash execution previously unseen and the songs are much more chorus-oriented than before. These two factors are best demonstrated on the chugging verses and sing-along hooks on "Bloodlust," but even the slower songs like "Go In Circles (Reachin' For An End)" will get stuck in your head before you know it.

This is further reinforced by the improved production and performances. The production is still pretty heavy but it is cleaner and gives the guitar a looser feel than the previous album. Of course, the vocals are still pretty worn out but they don't get as distracting this time around.

It also helps that the number of songs is the lowest it's been since the 80s, seemingly giving the duo more to work with on each one. There are still a bunch of old songs presented but they fit in better with the tone as the grooves on tracks like "Tidal Wave" and "Target" don't sound as forced. They also keep trying new things as "Buzzsaw" throws out a few quirky vocal effects and the title track invokes an odd ambient intro before the riffs kick in.

Sub-Basement isn't on the same level as their classic efforts but it is still a surprisingly good album. Some elements still make it tricky for new fans to get into this but there are solid songs for those who do seek it out. But in the Pentagram fashion, another dramatic shift kept its ambitions from being fully realized...

"Drive Me To The Grave"
"Go In Circles (Reachin' For An End)"
"Tidal Wave"

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