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Before instrumental skill, before experimentation, before rape and torture charges and the incident at Krakow, before "...Satan." and a thousand other things that turned Gorgoroth into a household name not only among metalheads but among the world at large, there was 'Pentagram'. In 1994, the year of 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' and 'Transilvanian Hunger', four Norwegian teenagers decided to get in on this 'black metal' thing and record an LP. Well, sort of an LP; it's less than a half hour long, nasty, brutish, and short, just like life, and 'record' is probably a bit too generous for this band, as it's more of a well-done banging of instruments than actual music, but hey, it's an album. Thirteen years later, everyone has a copy of it and it's apparently a work of incredible brilliance. What?
Rewind briefly to when I first got this album. 'Pentagram' was the first black metal release I ever owned, oddly enough, and I decided to purchase it after hearing an MP3 of 'Ritual'. I was weirdly entranced by that song, and although I'd heard other black metal before, none of it had stayed on my hard drive for long until Gorgoroth rolled around. But that song, apparently, with its super-slow verses sandwiched between frantic blasting, totally ensnared me like nothing else. I think I liked it because it was the first BM I'd heard that sounded occult in a genuine way; not just posturing for kids to feel impressed with themselves that they were listening to such 'dark' music. It was probably aided by how no-nonsense the music here is. There are no nine-minute epics or keyboards here, just simple power chord and tremolo riffs, completely primitive drumming, but a genuine sense of intensity and devotion.
Really, just listen to 'Begravelsesnatt'. It's two and a half minutes long, like three riffs, lots of screeching, and lots of blasting. It gets its point across and leaves. Such pragmatism in construction is rarely found today, and I have my doubts that the members of this band could even write stuff with any sort of musical 'flair', provided they could play it at all. It's clumsy as hell, with the instruments speeding up and slowing down accidentally before abruptly falling back into cadence with the rest of the band. It wouldn't surprise me if it was recorded live; the whole sound is rather organic and like something you would hear in some dingy Norwegian bar in the mid-90s.
But despite the simplicity of everything on this record, it's incredibly good for what it offers. Each riff is significant and important to the song, all the performances are deeply convincing (particularly on the part of vocalist Hat, who sounds ready to set your house on fire at any moment), and the atmosphere is completely dark and somehow not comical at all. A song like 'Crushing The Scepter (Regaining A Lost Dominion)' would seem silly in the hands of anyone else, but here seems incredible and intense.
You know, all the elements here would typically scream 'generic black metal', and yet it really isn't. The riffing and structures here are deeply unique, and were never really replicated by anyone else in quality or usage. It's obviously raw black metal, but there's also a sense of championing grandiosity, very knightly, though that knight would clearly be a black one and less intent on saving the damsel than sacrificing her to Satan. With every listen of this CD, I find it to be more and more fantastic. It's dark, twisted, convincing, atmospheric, everything that a black metal album should be. The writing is just flawless, and conveys such a sense of evil that most bands could only hope to achieve.
So I guess it's legendary for a reason, despite offering no stereotypically 'legendary' qualities. If you don't have it, get it, because despite how every single idea has been done to death, 'Pentagram' still manages to be stunningly unique. Simply awesome.