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The "new old school" of death metal has predominantly been focused on two general sounds. The first of these is the post-Dismember/Entombed style of hardcore punk style rhythms combined with a metallic eye towards lengthy and intricate tremolo melodies. The second of these harkens towards ideas from the more occult side of New York extreme metal (Profanatica and Incantation), using sudden and abrupt often blast beat guided motions to regulate and vary a theatre of violently converging themes. From the Netherlands comes a band that pre-dates these two, going back to the year 1990, playing in a style that looks back to the early American rigidly pounding approach of bands such as Massacre and Leprosy-era Death but gives it a European tinge in its melodic sensibilities that reminds of classic Asphyx. These are best used only as general references however as they manage to create an identity separate from the previously mentioned groups.
As with many bands that attempt to re-create the same classic feel and excellence of the late 80's/early 90's death metal explosion, the music here is of a low-tech and mostly simple execution but unlike the pop-metal, metal-flavoured indie, and "core" sounds of the new millennium this is not so much an artistic deficiency as much as it is a general stylistic attribute. Pentacle's compositional style is based upon a sense of contrast between jagged Hellhammer/Celtic Frost style crunching rhythm riffs and longer melodies, often tremolo picked, that recall Asphyx's The Rack although occasionally a slight Swedish death metal influence creeps in with their length and streamlining. Songs utilize the polarizing clash between the two in a way that evolves like an escalating conflict. Within each of these battles, a sub-theme will often break through the lines to start a small foray, one that hints at a future directional change. While the core idea remains the same as the song progresses, it reincarnates itself through the preceded theme usually with modified technique, before following finally following a bridge that leads it back to the song's originating riff.
A thick and somewhat dry production allows for a fair share of angry buzz, allowing all instruments to be heard fairly well while allowing for a fair share of rawness. A desolate open throated bark commands the instrumentation like some microphone-armed drill sergeant, sounding similar to the legendary Martin Van Drunen of Asphyx and Pestilence although not quite as powerful. Guitar is well acquainted with the cult heroes of underground extreme metal but pronounces its knowledge with a militant sense of order and precision, never becoming technical as much as it is strictly cadenced. Bass and drums bash alongside faithfully but throw in bits of "simple flair" at certain intervals to spice up the atmosphere a bit.
Although Pentacle do not break any new ground with this album, they are able to create a voice of their own and successfully build upon the earlier foundations of the genre. At times they occasionally sound somewhat limited by some instances of noticeable repetition and in their compositional ability. However, these shortcomings fortunately do not cripple or tarnish their artistic vision, with songwriting remaining clear, concise, and obviously guided by very experienced musicians. They are able to transcend perceived problems of aesthetic limiting the content (often made by those confusing the former for the latter) and have delivered a work that captures the same standard of quality of those that have influenced them.
There are bands that never fail and you can be sure that their albums will crush you. Maybe it's due to the fact that they don't release a full length every two years, but much less frequently, or maybe it's only their passion and enormous dedication to the classic death metal... Whatever it is, the final effect is always great. And Pentacle is such band. During their 15 years long career, the band released only two full lengths and miniLPs, as well as several EPs. The break between "Under the Black Cross" from 2005 and the first LP, "...Rides the Moonstorm" is seven years long and in the meantime Pentacle unleashed only "Ancient Death" MLP and two EPs. I think it was enough time to compose destructive and excellent songs in the classic death metal vein.
The concept, front cover and overall aura of the album reminds me Bolt Thrower's "Those Once Loyal" masterpiece and surely these two albums can be put together aside as examples for the crushing World War II oriented death metal. Unfortunately the gatefold vinyl of "Under the Black Cross" doesn't include the lyrics, which is a shame, because how can I get the concept if I haven't got the lyrics?
I think that music wise "Under the Black Cross" doesn't really bring anything new into the once created style of Pentacle. If you've heard the first album or any other releases the band unleashed in the late 90's / early 00's, then you already know what to expect. Pentacle doesn't need to experiment, it's the old school death metal they shred with and for sure it sounds great to my ears. I totally like the atmosphere the band creates. Again there's lots of similarities to such bands as Asphyx (of course!!!), Celtic Frost in the slower parts, then there're hints of Desaster (with some thrashing riffs and slightly in vocals), finally I think early Death and also Sadistic Intent can be mentioned here as the bands that have influenced Pentacle a little. Anyway, whatever bands I mention, one thing will remain important - this is classic death metal, so don't expect over technical and complex structures, the riffing here is about to create a certain atmosphere and that's something I love about such music. As well as the fact that you just want to bang your skull when hearing these sounds. The album is solid throughout and all the songs are of the same quality, with few standouts that rip the skull especially.
All in all, even if I must say that I like the first album slightly more, this one also shreds and is a must if you're into old school metal. I recommend also to get 10" "Archaic Undead Fury", which has two extra songs from the same session. Fuckin murder it is!!!
Standout tracks: "Into the Fiery Jaws", "A Devil's Shooting Gallery", “(Storming Through) A Hail Of Steel”
When I first heard Pentacle they'd just released their "Caressed By Both Sides" demo. I bought it from the band via a friend of mine who knew some band members. Listened to it but after a few spins the tape went into 'a' box somewhere.... and stayed there till now. I recall finding the band a Hellhammer/Celtic Frost worshipping group with grunts but really over-stretching everything they could. I really did not like the demo.
Now we're years later and they only thing I heard in the years in between was the work Gubbels did wih Asphyx. And here on "Under the Black Cross" he still sounds as Hollands best Martin van Drunen imitator. But this time the music isn't all about Celtic Frost and earlier stuff. The band has actually tried to sound like Consuming Impulse-era Pestilence and Last One On Earth-era Asphyx. All's nice and well you'd say?
Unfortunately not! I have not heard anything between their 1992 demo and this album but I do hear this band still doesn't understand how to write to-the-point material. Riffs and tempochanges are all all over the place but without the magic binding factor or a compositional theme. They just can't form any of them into a 'song' and are left with 8 contorted compositions.
And secondly the band cannot write riffs that immediately stick in your brain like Asphyx and Pestilence themselves could. For instance listen to the beginning of "Into the Fiery Jaws" and tell me it isn't obvious they're trying to write something similar to Pestilence's Dehydrated. Or try the intro to "(Storming Through) a Hail of Steel". An attempt at true old school metal harmonies but the main thing is missing: memorability or a 'real' melody. It's just a great 'idea' on paper but compositionally they are lacking.
Yes, there still are actually some good ideas all over the album but one has to listen through a lot of rubbish to discover them. well I'm sorry but I'm not into this kind of death metal-archeology.
The only thing of constant quality throughout the entire album are the vocals. But that's a matter of taste since I love the old van Drunen. I'd say just stick to Asphyx mr Gubbels and leave Pentacle for what it is: Mediocre and hopefully soon disbanded.
This is the second full-length album from Pentacle, a band from the Netherlands that plays old-school death metal.
The production on this album is quite clear and punishing. The vocals are right up front: they're understandable deathy snarls that remind me of the current frontman for Desaster. The guitars are sharp, with plenty of low-end that's further augmented by the bass, giving the album an extremely heavy sound. The drums are great, with plenty of clever fills when they're not pounding straight ahead.
Pentacle were certainly paying attention during Celtic Frost class -- they've got that sort of old, old death metal sound. They add in some thrashy guitars in the fast sections, too, all built on a foundation of genius riffing. The smooth transitions and perfectly placed speed changes ensure that these songs will get into your head and stay there. The lyrics and subject of the album are excellent, as well: it's a concept album, based upon a successful British suicide mission of World War II. As a result, Under the Black Cross has a feeling of triumph mixed with hopelessness that's quite powerful, and gives this album a surprising amount of atmosphere. From the opening salvo to the final notes of "Awaiting the Blast of Death", this album delivers song after song of top-notch death.
This is the best death metal album of 2005, as far as I'm concerned -- one of the best death metal albums in recent years, for that matter, right up there with Mortem's Decomposed by Possession. This band deserves an accolade for Under the Black Cross, as it's an instant classic in my eyes. Highest recommendations.
Standout tracks: "Into the Fiery Jaws", "A Devil's Shooting Gallery", "Awaiting the Blast of Death"
Review by Vorfeed: http://www.vorfeed.net