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I must say I have a lot of respect for Pentacle. They've always been totally devoted to the old school values and from the beginning they've been shredding with pure and massacring metal. Mind that at the time of releasing their first recordings - demos and "The Fifth Moon" MLP - there was no hype for traditional metal that much. Of course nowadays it's cool to sound and speak like in the old times, the old sounds of death or thrash metal have came back from the tomb, maniacs returned to their old demo tapes and albums and started new bands, which bring the classic styles to life. But back in the 1998, when "...Rides of the Moonstorm" was recorded, the traditional death metal was convulsing in agony. It was cool to play black metal only - and hardly many bands were daring to resurrect a spirit of the 80's metal (except maybe few like Aura Noir, but even they mixed it with black metal, so it wasn't the same really)... And there was Pentacle, with their wonderful blend of Celtic Frost and old Death, filled with the Asphyx riffs and some thrash metal razor sharp parts.
"...Rides of the Moonstorm" is one damn brilliant album. It includes songs, which I find 100% metal and killer and dare to say, it was one of the best death metal albums from that period of late 90's. The recipe is very simple here... The Dutch crew brought a lot of Celtic Frost feeling to their music (the LP even starts with an intro, with Tom Warrior's screams recorded live in 1985!!!!). There are many riffs that will remind you "Emperor's Return" or whatever and trust me, they sound great. They're heavy, brutal and will force you to bang the skull without any mercy. And at the same time I feel that Pentacle had a lot in common with their legendary countrymen Asphyx. If you listen to such tracks as "Yielding to the Scepter of Flesh" for instance, then the similarity is pretty obvious, especially with the slow beginning in this song, but not only, as also the faster playing here reminds me the greatest Dutch band ever. Of course Wannes Gubbels (whose vocals really may remind you Martin van Drunen's!) has joined Asphyx / Soulburn at the same time... So both bands started to play very similar music, but I have no problems with that, as long as it sounds killer, it's fine. And here the songwriting is not worse than on the Asphyx records. "...Rides of the Moonstorm" has also a strong thrash metal influence, one which sometimes reminds me the German satanic troops of Desaster!!!! Listen to "Raised By Night's Chaos" and make your own opinion, but doesn't this song match the brilliance of "Tyrants of the Netherworld"?? Anyway, putting all these three main ingredients together, you'll get what I find as crushing and totally memorable old school death metal. It may seem as so obvious and simple, but trust me, not many bands were able to capture this old school feeling so perfectly. The songs are full of blasting energy, the riffs are killer, the production raw, but deadly as hell... And even the fact that the songs are quite lengthy doesn't disturb, they're just well composed and diverse. I think that the songwriting here is one of the best ever, if we speak about such music.
The motto of the album is "Don't forget the ancient feeling... it still rules!". Well, I must say that such albums as "...Rides of the Moonstorm" definitely helped keeping this spirit of classic death / thrash metal metal alive. It truly makes sense here and not even for one second I felt like listening to the over-used ideas or riffs. No, Pentacle did everything right and it's a shame that the album is quite forgotten nowadays...In my opinion it is 666% worth recommending. Get the vinyl especially, if you ever have a chance to buy it. It may be difficult, as there were 500 copies only, but trust me, it looks killer. I hate, when the LP is very simply released, with just the cover and without the lyric inlay or whatever. Here, it just looks fantastic. A lovely gatefold, with lots of band pictures, plus two inner sleeves, each including one vinyl (as the album has been split on four sides), and again, each sleeve has lots of pictures, plus the lyrics and recording info... I can definitely say that Damnation Rex did amazing job when releasing this LP. Cult!
Best tracks: "Raised By Night's Chaos", "...Rides of the Moonstorm", "Deepness Of The Depths", "Yielding to the Scepter of Flesh"
Do you like Celtic Frost? Wait, what kinda question is that? Of course you do. Well so do these guys, very much. They even started out the album with a nifty (and quite hilarious) sample of Tom G. Warrior interacting with the crowd ("FUCKING CRAZY"). But, onto the music.
Wannes Gubbels, the bassist/vocalist, was a member of Apshyx for a while and there are some similarities between the riffing styles of both bands. But Pentacle lack the doom and dumb things down even more. Most riffs are made of fast, thrashing power-chords that aren't too far removed from "Into the Crypts of Rays." Which is where the problem lies with this album; it's a bit too samey. These songs don't really need to be over five minutes, and they all are. 3-4 minutes would suit this style much better, giving it the "Reign in Blood" effect almost.
The production on here is pretty much what you would expect from an early 90's death metal album. Guitars are fairly thin-sounding with a good bit of distortion, the bass isn't really audible on its own (though it does give the music some balls), and the drums are fairly dull sounding. In short, it's a damn fine production which suits the album perfectly.
The vocals on here also fit perfectly. They're of the Van Drunen/John Tardy school, but perhaps less tortured sounding. The shrieks work perfectly, and surprisingly never get monotonous. The lyrics on here are excellent as well, being very well-written for such a primitive slab of metal.
Drumming on this album is mostly d-beats with the occasional thrash BOOM-THWACK of alternating snare-bass popping up. He doesn't really add much to the music, but his performance is quite solid and respectable and fits what the guitars are doing quite nicely.
In short, this album would be much better if it were only 30-40 minutes long instead of 50. The songs just tend to drag on, and are a little too samey. If it were that length, I would have no problem giving this album a 95+. If you like your death metal decidedly primitive and balls-out thrashy, be sure to look this one up.
Standouts: "Rides the Moonstorm," "For I am Chaos," and "Spell of the Pentagram."