Having been around in one form or another since the early 70s it’s probably safe to say that the name Pentagram has reached near-legendary status amongst the denim-and-leather-clad hordes of doom metal fans out there. Despite not quite reaching the same level of widespread affection as, say, Black Sabbath, a new Pentagram album is still something to look forward to, especially as Last Rites is the first album since 1994’s Be Forewarned to feature guitarist Victor Griffin who, along with mainstay vocalist Booby Leibling, are the Pentagram equivalent of the Osbourne/Iommi pairing i.e. as good as it gets as far as fans are concerned.
Opening with the fuzzed-up rock n’ roll riff of ‘Treat Me Right’ Last Rites is nothing if not muscular, heavy and surprisingly tight, with second track ‘Call the Man’ adding a ludicrously catchy melody to its classic doomy stomp. However, the pace changes soon after and so does the tone, with tracks like ‘Into the Ground’ and the folky/pop rock of ‘Windmills and Chimes’ sounding considerably lighter, never raising the game but merely flatlining and failing to drive the songs forward in quite the same way.
It must also be noted that Bobby Liebling’s vocals don’t quite hit the mark on a few of the tracks, and although, like Ozzy Osbourne, his voice was never the strongest when compared to contemporaries such as Ian Gillan, Rob Halford or Robert Plant, there was always charisma and character in his voice which feels somewhat lacking when it should be at the forefront of the songs.
There are other factors here to compensate. Victor Griffin’s guitar sound is suitably thick and heavy, whilst drummer Tim Tomaselli’s solid fills add a bit of energy where it’s needed. But despite being a good album Last Rites doesn’t quite carry the weight that an expected ‘comeback’ album should have, meaning that whilst it will likely do the job for long-time fans it’s unlikely that newcomers who have heard the Pentagram name will see what all the fuss is about on this outing.