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In my honest opinion Pentacle is still one of the most underrated European death metal bands ever. They’re kind of band, which obviously has a legion of dedicated fans, but considering the quality of their music and also how long they’ve been active it would feel more appropriate to me if they have gained more attention and their status would be close to Asphyx at least. Anyway, I just have a feeling that only a group of dedicated underground death metal maniacs really appreciate them. Hmm, maybe it’s because Pentacle has only two full length LPs in their discography, most of their stuff was limited and released by smaller, underground labels and most importantly, Pentacle were not so active in the recent years, due to the dedication of Wannes Gubbels to Asphyx? Who knows, but I really hope that slowly and slowly Pentacle will start rebuilding their position on the death metal scene (which for me they’ve never lost and always have been somewhere there on its top!). Recently the Dutch maniacs have released couple of split 7”EPs, which I also have, but here I would like to write some words about one of my favourite Pentacle recordings, which is “Ancient Death” MCD from 2001. It was originally issued by Damnation Records, but I regret that I only have the CD, while I would really love to have it on vinyl, as all the other Pentacle stuff, which I have in my collection, I have on vinyl… Anyway, maybe one day I will be able to get what I want, meanwhile it is just better to enjoy this absolutely killer and essential death metal and bang the skull when listening to some of the best riffs ever composed by death metal band!
Yeah, I really fuckin love “Ancient Death”. This MCD, for me, is just perfect and the content of it is very special. First off, there are three Pentacle tracks, which are exclusive to this MCD. Then there’s a re-recorded version of their old demo classic ("Descending of the Soul" from "Winds of the Fall", Demo, 1993) and finally we also get two covers… Hmm, someone would moan that covers are usually nothing interesting. Fuck off, personally I like when bands play some classic songs in their own versions, so I am a fan of covers. And these two covers on “Ancient Death” are kind of special, because Pentacle didn’t chose the same stuff, which hundreds of other bands have done, but took Mantas’ awesome classic “Legion of Doom” (originally from 1984 demo "Death by Metal”) and Death’s “Witch of Hell” (from "Reign of Terror" demo 1984). And that second choice is especially worthy, as usually people would choose something more known from band like Death (“Zombie Ritual” for example), but Pentacle went for their demo song! And you know, with all respect to Death, but their demos sounded awful, you can barely hear a shit there, not to mention that their skills at that time were poor, so it is very interesting that Pentacle is giving a new life to such song as “Witch of Hell”. Now I can listen to this song with pleasure, more so because it never ended on any Death album. “Legion of Doom” is more known, but originally the production on this Mantas demo was also pretty bad, so I really like that idea to exhume and resurrect such ancient death metal songs.
But let’s start from beginning, shall we? And first is “Prophet of Perdition”, which surely is one of my favourite Pentacle songs ever! Awesome riffs, great vocals and truly memorable song – this is all you should know about it. It makes awesome impression, with this feeling of classic extreme metal, which will have a lot of similarity to the Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, but in few moments I can even spot some Obituary, Death and obviously also the mighty Asphyx. Perfect tune to start! Then we have "Descending of the Soul" – and damn… I actually don’t know the original version, never had a chance to hear any Pentacle demos, but this is just very good song. It is kind of slower, maybe slightly more melodic, but with some vicious and ravaging stuff as well. I only wonder how much they have improved the arrangements comparing this version to the old demo stuff… And if you think that “Descending…” is slightly too slow, then “Immolated in Flames” will cheer you up, as this song sounds almost like a thrash metal classic, with these whipping riffs and dynamics. It will keep punching you until you bleed out, trust me. “Walking Upon Damnation's Land” is the epic song… I love these powerful, fast riffs, that viciousness and aggression of this song and the amazing vocals, which have been shared between Wannes and K.K. Warslut from D666. And with that memorable chorus part it couldn’t get any better in my opinion. This, along with “Prophet of Perdition”, is the best part of “Ancient Death”. As for the covers, they both sound fantastic, but I especially love “Legion of Doom”, which is such a killer and catchy death metal classic that is just impossible to resist. For me Pentacle recorded its perfect version, really!!!!!!!! “Witch of Hell” is also superb though… I like it also because I am not so much familiar with the original version (this is one of the few Death songs, which never been recorded for their albums), so it just shreds to pieces.
Standout tracks: “Prophet of Perdition”, “Legion of Doom”, “Walking Upon Damnation's Land”
Final rate: 90/100
This band really made my jaw hit the floor. I didn't think anyone made death metal like this anymore. Wow...simply wow. This is one of the heaviest, most crushing assaults of death I've heard in years, without being filled with pointless blastbeats and indecipherable and commical gurgly vocals. No way, this is pure balls, pure unadulterated heaviness, rivalled only by bands like Asphyx, and this band's own earlier work. I could also point out the heavy influence of bands like Celtic Frost, very early Death, and even Obituary, and truly this is nothing too original, but this kind of death metal is just about a lost art form these days, which is why Pentacle is so completely commendable.
I mentionned Asphyx earlier, and indeed, Wannes also did the vocals on the last Asphyx album. This man is one of the unheralded greats of extreme metal. He's got what I think is the coolest voice for death metal I've ever heard. It's sort of like what would happen if Martin Van Drunen, John Tardy and Chuck Schuldiner in his youngest days were involved in some horrendous radio activity experiment on mutation and somehow got melded together. Wannes sounds absolutely venomous here, almost seeming to swallow the microphone with his intense vocal delivery. And the music is so crushingly heavy...pounding you into the floor when it's slow and crushing, and sending you into a headbanging, smashing frenzy when it accelerates to thrash tempo. Some of this has to do with the production I'm sure, which is top-notch and perfectly balanced with a specific goal in mind, that being, of course, to have the weight and might of an unstoppable panzer tank. However, most of this heaviness simply comes down to musicians who know how to write powerful riffs, who've listened to lots of Celtic Frost in their time and know that one good, simple chord progression is worth a thousand tremolo wankeries on the fretboard. "Prophet of Perdition" starts off the proceedings with a slow, menacing melodic riff, repeats it three or four times, then throws you across the room at full speed, and the EP doesn't let up, even when things slow to almost doom pace during a few sections (who the fuck says doom can't be the heaviest metal genre there is?).
My one complaint here, obviously, is that this is just an EP! Only six songs, two of which are Death covers (from the demo days even) is just not nearly enough. Sure, the previous Pentacle album is absolutely stellar, but it doesn't have this killer production, nor does it quite have this togetherness and punch (though it comes very close). I have to point out "Walking Upon Damnation's Land", though, as a highlight, along with the aforementioned "Prophet of Perdition". It's a more midpaced assault, and features Wannes paired with K. K. Warslut of Destroyer 666 on vocals. The two really give it all they've got here, and it's one of the best vocal performances you're ever likely to hear in extreme metal. If you like oldschool death, get this. If you like thrash, get this. If you want to be pulverized, get this you fucking wimps!!!