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Unadulterated and predictable Second Wave warfare. - 69%

ConorFynes, April 27th, 2016

Gorgoroth have been a consummate "b-band" from their inception onwards. That's not to say they haven't offered some worthy albums to Second Wave canon, but look at some of the other stuff that was coming out of Norway in 1994, when their debut Pentagram was released. Hvis lyset tar oss broke new barriers with atmosphere. Transilvanian Hunger set the perennial standard for the raw and frostbitten. In the Nightside Eclipse explored previously unparalleled density and sophistication. That's not even to mention De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which still represents the best that traditional black metal has to offer. Now compare that with Gorgoroth, who clearly embraced the Second Wave's coldness and ideological brutality without adding something truly innovate to it. Sure it's evil, but ever mentioning them on the same terms of the real masters would be doing them all a grave disservice.

In the years since Gorgoroth have only seen fit to nail themselves further into a coffin-- and not the trendy, "vvampyric" kind either. While I've always thought that Gorgoroth was in need of being taken down a few pegs from true classic status, that shouldn't deter from the fact that their first triumvirate of records really brought it where it counted. For what Pentagram lacks in a distinctive quality, it certainly compensates for in terms of convincing me of the impression that these guys really practiced the evil that they preached. The riffs are implacably primitive. The vocals are thin and murky, and the songwriting only offers brief respites from the Second Wave onslaught. A black metal fanatic could go their entire lives without hearing this supposed classic and be none the worse for it, but for anyone in search of an amorphous emblem of Second Wave aesthetics, Pentagram fits the bill.

From my perspective, each of the three first Gorgoroth albums stand as a solid alternative to Pure Holocaust. By that, I mean they're perfect if you're looking for a condensed dose of blackened fury and don't have much longer than half an hour to squeeze it all in. It works to Pentagram's credit that it foregoes the mandatory "wolf howl/spooky wind"-type intro you hear on just about every Norsecore record. Instead, Gorgoroth wisely opt to chuck the listener into the fray instantly. Infernus' riffs are kept simple throughout the album, and the fundaments of songwriting are generally underplayed in favour of an all-encompassing, start-to-finish surge of aggression throughout the album. Gorgoroth would benefit from more distinctive songs on some of their later works, but considering how blissfully short the album is, it's easily better to interpret Pentagram as a single stretch of music.

Surprisingly, the most distinctive aspect of Pentagram is actually the vocal component. Hat's vocals first struck me with a measure of annoyance, not because they're particularly original in their own right, but because they sound so monotone and thin throughout the album. As my time with the album progressed, I began to see the undermixed vocals as a strength. There's no dynamic. No overt message, arguably save for Satanic hatred. Hat's vocals are really used as an added level of noise in the mix, and they're never prominent enough to get in the way of appreciating the riffs. This move foreshadows the interest Gorgoroth would later take with experimenting in industrial music. Not that it matters in the context of Pentagram, of course. Whether it's in measure of the riffs or atmosphere, the album hits its mark, without daring to excel in any of those areas. There are instances when that's all that's wanted or needed.