Peaceville Records – August 2015
7/10 – Jamie Cansdale
It’s hard to talk about Pentagram without mentioning its tumultuous history or Liebling’s personal life, both aspects we are familiar with. But given the majority of Curious Volume’s lyrical themes deal with the vocalist’s struggle with his personal demons, it’s important for the (new) listener to understand that his battle with some of the hardest narcotics known to man has led to numerous line-up changes and the breakdown of Liebling’s marriage. Keeping with Victor Griffin and Greg Turley, the band are set to release this, their 8th record, on Peaceville Records, who will also release the documentary Last Days Here in the UK later in the year.
Featuring mostly new material, Curious Volume starts off on a strong note. Songs Lay Down and Die and The Tempter Push do well to set the tone, giving it the feel of a full on rock record, more so than their previous effort Last Rites. This is something certain pedants on metal sites and social media showed concern over, that the band were edging more towards hard rock and featuring less of their doom aesthetic. But let’s be honest, this has always been Pentagram. The sound on these two songs is pretty damn good.
Unfortunately that is this album’s downfall. The quality in the opening is just so high that the remainder doesn’t fare well in comparison. It’s the not that the music is bad, far from it, but songs such as Dead Bury Dead and Walk Alone repeat themselves too much that they just aren’t memorable. If it’s not the music, it is Bobby’s vocals that fall short – despite featuring some of the album’s best music, Misunderstood sounds fairly mismatched with how the frontman choose to deliver the song’s rather poignant lyrics. Sufferin’ suffers the same fate.
There are moments of greatness however, particularly in the case of The Devil’s Playground – the album’s most doom-like track – that brilliantly fades in with feedback and ends on a screeching solo courtesy of Victor Griffin. And if what has been written doesn’t tempt you to buy the album, it’s the lyrics that really do the justice here. Despite being a collaborative effort between the members, the album’s predominant theme is Bobby’s recovery and turning a new leaf in his life, giving the illusion of a more personal album for the band’s sole original member. For example, Close the Casket features the line “I close the casket on the old man’s ways/and now I’m seeing through eyes that were blind/and close the casket as the old man dies” thus burying his old life and being reborn. Whether you believe him or not, these are some of the band’s hardest-hitting words.
All in all it’s a good effort from the band and better than expected. The sound is good and heavy and rockin’ throughout, despite all that has been said. And I guess that is what matters at the end of the. Just don’t be fooled by the album’s cover…