Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

Rock music has been around long enough to have claimed the lives of too many people unable to keep the balance between the components of “sex, drugs and Rock n’Roll”. There are, of course, a few exceptions – a small number of individuals who are, for reasons that even science cannot properly explain, still with us.

Though the most celebrated of all is Ian “Lemmy” Kilminster of Motorhead fame, an ‘award’ should also be handed to a certain gentlemen by the name of Bobby Liebling – the founding member and frontman of the Virginia-based Heavy Doom outfit Pentagram. After many years fighting not only his drug and alcohol related demons, but also numerous fellow band members, Bobby is back with a new line up, a new recording contract and, finally, a collection of eleven songs, entitled ”Last Rites”. Should we still be interested in Pentagram and their works?

Yes, indeed! I mean, granted: everything that has happened to Bobby and the band throughout the years – all those cancelled gigs, these albums that were never released and the break downs of relationships amongst the members of this band were, to a certain extent, self-inflicted.

What has happened recently, however, according to the man himself, is a revelation; a realisation of the situation and a decision to finally move things forward, both on a personal and a professional level. Whether that has been applied in his personal life is something that only really Bobby knows and should be concerned with, but with regards his professional career, having spent quite a long time in the company of “Last Rites” I can safely say that things are finally moving in the right direction.

In short, these thirteen songs, the vast majority of which were recorded back in the 70s and are finally being released to the public, will bring a massive smile to the faces of those of who grew up listening to albums such as “Relentless” and “Day Of Reckoning”, while those of you who have a soft spot for bands as diverse as Paradise Lost and Witchcraft will see how much in common they really have, at least with regards their main musical influences.

What better way to starts the album than with a bunch of groovy riffs like those featured in “Treat Me Right” – riffs that, although are not overly complicated, can only really be created by the ‘chosen few’. Still fairly groovy with a slower 70s Rock tempo is the vocally-driven “Call The Man” while the much heavier “Into The Ground” is a must for fans of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath.

The first truly colossal effort of the album is “8” – a beautiful crafted composition whose harmonic guitar intro and heavy main riff send me on an unbelievably emotional trip every time I listen to it! It is while listening to “Everything’s Turning To Night” that I understand where bands like Witchcraft take their 70s inspirations from, while a more bluesy Rory Gallagher approach is taken in “Windmills and Chimes”.

The second ‘belter’ of the album is another harmonic opus, “American Dream” – a song whose lead guitar melodies have been borrowed on many occasions by the likes of Paradise Lost. “Walk In the Blue Light” is another groovy, riff-orientated piece and its structure is much more conventional than that of the fairly weird “Horseman”.

What the closing two compositions of the album, namely “Death In 1st Person” and “Nothing Left”, have in common is an appreciation towards ‘the riff’ – however the former is darker and more narrative in nature, whereas the latter uses simple vocal melodies in order to achieve maximum effect.

I have to be honest with you; when I first heard that Pentagram were about to release a new album I really didn’t know what to expect and, though my heard was hoping for a positive result, my mind was preparing me for the worst.

I am happy to say that “Last Rites” is not simply one hell of an album but, quite possibly, one of the strongest thus far candidates for the title ‘album of the year’. Pentagram’s music, though always quite simply in strictly technical terms, was always steeped with honesty and passion – both being the main ingredients of the eleven compositions that are on offer here. Both quite solid and impressively varied, “Last Rites” is the kind of album that every band would pray to be able to create at least one time in their career but which, sadly, only a few unique outfits like Pentagram are capable of pulling off! Top marks for a top release!

John Stefanis

Rating: ***** (5.0/5.0)

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In this two hour special David Randall plays a selection of the GRTR! reviewer choices for ‘Best of 2019′ and announces the results of the popular poll. First broadcast Sunday 22 December 2019.

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