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Pentagram > Day of Reckoning > Reviews > Acrobat
Pentagram - Day of Reckoning

'Taking my chances through madness' - 93%

Acrobat, November 9th, 2008

It was a dark day in Scotland when I re-discovered the vague and distant glories of ‘Day of Reckoning’, the Irn Bru had turned from a sickly ginger to a shade of crimson, the locals with their fish-like faces puckered up in the cold, adopted a solemn and foreboding mood – in stark contrast to their usual pissed-up joviality. I was alone again with the Pentagram… and Holy Sepulchre was it frightening!

Long ago, I had neglected ‘Day of Reckoning’ for its sibling, ‘Be Forewarned’ (which to be frank is a thundering beast with sixteen hooves that will frankly slaughter any doom album outside of Sabbath’s first six). Although ‘Day of Reckoning’ is merely sulking amongst the tombstones rather than lifting up the caskets and fiddling with the dead, it’s still an immensely powerful doom album and certainly not one I should’ve avoided whilst twiddling around with darker arts.

As others have commented the production here is strange… distant almost. This is because the Pentagram cares not; it needn’t acknowledge your pitiful cries for the snare sound to be more refined. Pentagram is dark as space is deep… and dark (I’d like to thank Michael Moorcock for writing that for me). The guitar sound here is something very interesting – a murky, dreamy yet melodic tone emboldened by Victor’s use of frequent harmonisation. Notably the bass here really captures the essence of Geezer Butler’s early Sabbath style, the accenting of riffs and general use of some imagination in its craft harkens to the Butler-esque school of bass.

In short: if these guys were any closer to nailing the ‘Vol. 4’ sound they’d be setting Bill Ward on fire by the pool.

It is a source of some amusement for me that Pentagram use satanic imagery to great effect and generally has a very evil sound whilst much of their actual material is written from a staunchly Christian viewpoint. I suppose it’s the ultimate expression of Sabbath worship with its completely on-the-fence theological standpoint. But this very much appeals to me, as essentially I find religious views simply another way of annoying the hell out of people. Are the whiny Baptists about? I’ll fetch the inverted hot cross buns. Are the teen Satanists getting out of hand? Get me the book of Revelations and a pitcher of holy water! So once again, another clear reason why I’m starting to get a little obsessed by Pentagram. But whatever your standpoint is on the old God Vs Satan hootenanny, there is no denying – the old me would’ve put a “the cross?” related pun hear, but I’m a reformed man – that these lyrics are exceptional.

‘Day of Reckoning’ contains within its smelly and mildewed tomb one of the most beautifully strange songs in the whole of heavy metal, ‘Broken Vows’, mournful gargantuan guitars twist and wail amongst each other and Bobby Liebling’s vocals give the sentiments of a man who’s been there, done that and probably regretted most of it. The emotion in his voice is not conveyed by wailing, starlet vocal acrobatics (that simply must always equate a great vocalist!) but through an austere, understated voice and a simple dark repose in his mood. As metal’s eternal underachiever you can sense that the storm clouds are never far from Bobby’s head. In fact this song shows the album’s production working in its favour; the tight cracking snare gives a nice contrast to the smothering guitar sound.

‘Burning Saviour’ is the first Pentagram epic and quite a notable song with the smouldering combination of sparkly, spidery acoustic picking and the slow-burning crunchy guitar tones. This is really Victor’s time to shine and the pinnacle of his Sabbath worship in that it doesn’t just pick up on the more moribund aspects of Iommi either. For instance, see that massive riff at 4:27 could have been on a more rocky Sabbath song like ‘Sabbra Cadabra’ and at 5:21 there is a synthesiser (or possibly a heavily processed guitar) that recalls Geoff Nicholls’s work on ‘Die Young’. But there’s more! The guitar solo is combination of ‘Mob Rules’ era Iommi dynamic wah-wah and ‘Fast’ Eddie’s more earthy pentatonic ideas. There you go, now you can play spot the influence too, though I’ve done it for you… so this is like getting a colouring book that’s already been done as a present (damn you, Christmas 1994!). But strangely enough is that this is actually a Liebling composition, especially when we consider that he likes to downplay the Sabbath influence on Pentagram. Perhaps this was just a string of scarily accurate coincidences and Bobby was actually listening to ‘Summertime Blues’ the whole time.

Perhaps one reason I find Pentagram far superior to their much-lauded contemporaries such as the at times excellent but often unimaginative, Candlemass is their ability to deliver far more cohesive albums. Never once do I feel that lesser songs are simply hidden behind the greatness of better ones. Pentagram made albums, Candlemass do pop singles… or not. But the point to get from this is that ‘Day of Reckoning’ is an unfailing album, it doesn’t assume that it can simply earn its keep by being doom for the sake of it. Songs like ‘Madman’ use strange brisk melodic guitars and 70s style middle eights that you wouldn’t normally associate with doom metal. Another issue of importance is the variation in these seven songs, if I were going to further stress my Pentagram-fanboy-holds-a-somewhat-unhealthy-prejudice-towards-Candlemass I’d compare this to ‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus’ whose six songs achieve far less. But then again that paved the way for a whole spate of largely lifeless ‘epic’ doom bands whereas this probably just provided Pentagram with more drug money and maybe a tin of hot dogs, if they were lucky. But still, the variation between the title track’s speedy assault and the gloomy drive of ‘Wartime’ is very enjoyable.

Though not quite as eternally doomed or desolate as ‘Be Forewarned’ (plug, plug, plug), ‘Day of Reckoning’ is not something to be sniffed at. All of the Death Row era ‘gram records are essential, magical records and this is the second and even as a literature student that’s maths even I can comprehend.