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Curious Volume Review: Pentagram Riff Hard, But Still Offer New Surprises, Too

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Couple o’ red flags in the ol’ Pentagram bio.

It’s a tumultuous history that spans four-plus decades. Where to begin? The band didn’t get their first album out until nearly 15 years after forming. They’ve gone through a billion or so lineup changes. Their official biography notes the group had “lots of failed attempts at a live gig.”

Oh, and their troubled frontman Bobby Liebling had a habit of, uh, bad habits. Backstage overdoses and such.

It’s a devilish miracle, then, that Pentagram are not only still alive, but kicking hard. Liebling, along with Victor Griffin, Greg Turley and Pete Campbell invest Curious Volume with the energy and verve of a band half, hell, a third their age.

Good timing, too. The band’s on a definite upswing thanks to Liebling’s improved health and a well-received 2011 doc called Last Days Here. Holding over producer Travis Wyrick from their previous album Last Rites, Pentagram riff hard on Curious and offer some surprises, too.

It’s not all dark, for starters. This is a band equally adept at kickin’ up a Southern rock duststorm (“Lay Down and Die”), finding a modern groove (the Clutch-like “Dead Bury Dead”) or gettin’ downright cheery, if the hand claps and ’70s glam throwback of “Misunderstood” can be believed. (Hey, it’s in the title: they’re misunderstood).

Not to say they know where they made their claim to (near) fame: menacing come-ons (“Sufferin’”), space-y grooves (“Devil’s Playground”) and, yeah, a little doom’n’gloom. It works best near the end of “Walk Alone,” reminding you that Sabbath coulda had some competition in their heyday. Less so on “Close the Casket,” a decidedly dark but ultimately cheesy treatise on death.

Overall? A curiously welcome find, even if it took a near half-century to get here.

Pentagram’s Curious Volume drops August 28 on Peaceville. Stream the album in full here and pre-order it here.

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