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Of all the "earlier" black metal I listened to, this little CD sticks in my mind as much as any. It was one of those blind purchases off the record store shelves, having only a vague suspicion of what might be contained within.
The purchase was quickly justified. Expecting a whirlwind of black metal speed and that classic wall of sound (I believe I was listening to Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse regularly), I was instead greeted with a variety of tempo, riffing, and most of all, groove. Delivered with a production that was undeniably black, and possessed of some of the most outlandish high-register screeching vocals I had ever heard, I was immediately hooked.
My copy of Pentagram is recorded in one track -- no breaks between songs at all. Oddly enough, this has proven useful in that I am forced to listen to the CD all the way through, as it was intended. As I mentioned before, there is a wide variety to be had here. The songs switch up from slow grinding fare, through mid tempo rolling riffage, all the way to high-intensity traditional black metal. True fans of the genre may note a lack of adherence to the traditional norms of black metal. I found it to be quite refreshing, as the band seems to focus more on plodding mid-paced rhythms than the swirling madness that can usually be found on high end black metal offerings. I often wonder if Gorgoroth may have started out as a different type of band, and adapted this material to black metal later on. As I tend to love punishing mid-paced power, this is right in my pocket of love. It makes me want to break things, and that's a great place to be!
Hat's vocals are exceptional. My best offhand description would be of a cat possessed by the worst demon you've ever imagined, and trapped in a cage expressing his dire hatred of his captor, wanting nothing more than to kill that person in the most unbelievably violent manner imaginable. I didn't think such sounds were possible from the human thorax, but I have been proven wrong. This guy is out there. Great performance, but someone please get Hat a glass of water because his vocal cords must be completely stripped after this.
If there is a criticism, I would say it lies with the drumming, which is quite in keeping with the rest of the music, but appears to offer little that could be considered spectacular. I do like how the drum kit is mixed, however, as I prefer to hear all the instruments of the band -- black metal or not. Pentagram has a nice isolated production, at least compared to other offerings in the genre. I can hear all the instruments perfectly well, and I for one think it adds to the effect, rather than taking away. I've never been a real big fan of black metal that goes for the wall of sound where the instruments can't be heard. I find myself forever fumbling with the equalizer on my rig, trying to draw out the drums or something else in the mix. Not a problem with Pentagram, as everything is in its proper place and perfectly audible, straight through the entire performance.
Overall this is more than a worthy first offering from the band, and well worth your time in tracking down if you haven't already. I did wind up purchasing several of the band's releases in the future, mostly based off this initial CD. Although I did find much to enjoy, this one remains my favorite for it's unique approach, and Hat's outstanding, freakish vocal performance. It's always nice to find a nice little CD sitting on the shelves that you feel like very few others know about. Of course, fans of the genre know about Gorgoroth's Pentagram, but it nevertheless remains a gem amongst the massive library of black metal offerings, and should be enjoyed by everyone who cares about this style of music.