"Last Rites"

(Metal Blade)

01. Treat Me Right
02. Call the Man
03. Into the Ground
04. 8
05. Everything's Turning to Night
06. Windmills and Chimes
07. American Dream
08. Walk in Blue Light
09. Horseman
10. Death in 1st Person
11. Nothing Left

RATING: 8.5/10

You can say that there aren't many albums around these days that sound quite like "Last Rites", with the possible exception of those released by PLACE OF SKULLS, but you sure can't say with any seriousness that it doesn't sound like PENTAGRAM. I'll spare you the detailed history lesson on Bobby Liebling's lifelong struggles with both addiction and the maintenance of a stable lineup, not to mention his rise from the ashes in more recent times, and focus on the matter at hand. Said matter concerns an album in "Last Rites" that is terrific by any standard, whether PENTAGRAM or blues-based hard rock and doom metal in general.

Reuniting for the foreseeable future with ace axe-man Victor Griffin (PLACE OF SKULLS) has paid big dividends on "Last Rites". The first PENTAGRAM studio album — though not all recently written material — since 2004's "Show 'em How" and the first Liebling-Griffin collaboration since 1994's "Be Forewarned" is to a significant degree a definitive example '70s hard rock warmth and SABBATH-ian, giant-riffed doom. Accessible and comparatively compact in arrangement, yet filled with monolithic Griffin riffs, "Last Rites" is an exceptional example of an album that should appeal to doom/stoner rock devotees and fans of the harder end of '70s classic rock.

On the one hand, Griffin's contribution gives it a heavier doom feel and on the other one hears a purer, song-based approach not unlike some of the material heard on "First Daze Here". Interestingly enough it is the rip roarin' rock of opener "Treat me Right" that owes less to BLACK SABBATH and more to the MC5 in its balls-out delivery. Beyond that one and a surprisingly hooky, ballad-esque cut in "Windmills and Chimes", "Last Rites" is all bottom-heavy and tuneful PENTAGRAM might. From the loping '70s rock of "Call the Man" to the forceful Griffin riff and heartfelt solos (OK, those are all over the album) of "Into the Ground" to the moody soulfulness of "American Dream", one of the album's most refreshing characteristics is just how cohesive it all sounds. Along the same lines, the band does a fine job of contrasting the lighter moments with earthquake jolts, a prime example of which is heard on "8". Liebling brings some vocal versatility to the table as well, his Ian Anderson (JETHRO TULL) infection/patterns on the excellent "Walk in Blue Light" and his sinister, near-whispers on the verses of "Horseman" cases in point.

At its core, "Last Rites" is an album of vintage hard rock songs that just happen to be turbo-charged with the enormity of Griffin's riffs and shaded with PENTAGRAM doom. Leave assessments of the album's rank within the PENTAGRAM catalogue to the diehards and just enjoy it. "Last Rites" is more than a welcome return; it is a rejuvenated one.


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