Pentagram has long demonstrated that metal bands don't need to play fast to create a heavy sound. The Virginia doom-metal pioneers have been honing their ominous riffs nearly continuously since the 1970s. The group's latest studio album (and seventh overall), "Last Rites," finds Pentagram mainstay vocalist Bobby Liebling reuniting with guitarist Victor Griffin for the first time since 1994's "Be Forewarned."
Griffin and Liebling haven't missed a beat here. On the album's standout track, "8," Liebling's brooding bellow goes head to head with Griffin's menacing guitar, each seeming to egg the other on to a darker and more sinister sound. Liebling almost chokes out his lyrics on the bluesy "Into the Ground," but it is Griffin's heavy yet hummable riffs that make the song so memorable.
That dark sound pervades "Last Rites," with one gloomy riff after another layered on gut-shaking drums. Even lighter songs such as "Windmills and Chimes" carry an overcast tone. (The album does have one obvious piece of filler — a minute-long instrumental outro whose murky sludge groans but ultimately goes nowhere.) Still, one weak track is easy enough to ignore. Despite a seven-year hiatus since the band's previous studio release, "Last Rites" shows that Pentagram still has plenty to say — and say well.
-- Catherine P. Lewis