Monday, December 19, 2016

review: Pentacle

Ancient Death (re-issue)
Vic Records
release: 25 November 2016
Since Pentacle's beginning in 1989, their art has been based on the original sources of Venom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Mantas/Death, Bathory and the other foundational works of extreme metal. The only differences may be that (1) Pentacle's aesthetics have remained loyal to the ideas that drove them to form the band and they have worked towards those concepts as the years have gone by; and (2) Pentacle's recordings bring to fruition the original extreme metal with a much better sound that you will usually find in the recordings of the band's inspirational sources in the first place.
Pentacle's aesthetics are generally framed within death metal and everyone understands that Pentacle is a death metal band. That's fine, but Pentacle's music encompasses a whole way of making music. The band calls it "the ancient feeling," which encompasses the spirit of raw thrash/death/black metal. The vocals are not just growling or barking, they are expressive and have a personality. There is a black metal element to the vocals, but it's the early black metal spirit. If you pay close attention to the vocals, you'll notice there are various shades, it's not just monotonous, microphone-cupping vocals. The vocals go low, and high, there are snarls and exclamations. The death metal guitar tone may cover up a bit what's going on with the guitars, which is memorable, easy to understand, and has a bit melodies here and there. There's a bit of tremolo riffing, too. You can also hear the instrumentation quite clearly, in a way that is not too computerized and clinical.
On this EP the band has a Mantas cover and a Death cover. The truth is that Pentacle makes those songs sound better. Those old songs might be deity-level to cult fanatics, maybe even including the band itself, but those old garage songs are given a new, proper life with Pentacle's versions.
review by MMB
OFFICIAL: Pentacle is one of the oldest, and still active Dutch death metal bands. Formed by bassist / vocalist Wannes Gubbels (ex Asphyx / Soulburn) in 1989 and still touring, playing gigs and recording and releasing old school death metal. ‘Ancient Death’ was recorded and mixed at Harrow Productions, The Netherlands (Asphyx, Grand Supreme Blood Court, Soulburn) in 2000. This vic records ‘Ancient Death’ re-issue has a special bonus track from the same sessions named ‘Soul’s Blood’. Cover artwork by Manuel Tinnemans (Varathron, Entombed AD, Rotting Christ). Guest vocals by K.K. Warslut (Destroyer 666). Special for this re-release, the album comes with a 32 (!) page booklet including rare pics, flyers, posters etc, designed by Arco Wolf (Pestilence, IDES, Eternal Solstice).
Biography: Chained within the mythical realms of primeaval black/death metal, so graciously unveiled in the early 80's by hallowed cults such as Venom, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Possessed, Messiah, Destruction, Necrovore, Bathory, Treblinka, Slaughter (CAN) and Necrophagia, Pentacle's sepul­chral tribute, to this unforgotten legacy, started back in winter '89/'90 when Mike (guitar), Wannes (bass/vocals) and Marc (drums) joined forces...
Entangled in the growing urge to inspire their own roaring metal quest, Pentacle soon developed a highly ambitious con­spiracy; forging twisting death metal rhythms and haunting doom chords in the archaic traditions of the crafts. 1992 spewed forth Pentacle's first official rehearsaltape, "Caressed by Both Sides"; a primal anthology of pounding horror, which contained 4 of their own compositions as well as the band's gloomy interpretation of Hellhammer's "The Reaper". Shortly after the tape's release, Pentacle gained stage expe­rience supporting bands such as Asphyx and Gorefest.
The heretical spawn crawled on into 1993 with the trinity's one and only studio demo, "Winds of the Fall", which unleashed 5 more charnel hymns to conquer souls enslaved by ancient metal. Their earthly testimony of doom was reflected in prai­sing reviews and encouraging respect from kindred bands. More stages were shared with the likes of Occult, Anathema, Senten­ced, Ancient Rites, Acrostichon, Eternal Solstice and Samael...
1994 witnessed Pentacle descending into the recording dungeons once more, to evoke "A Dance Beyond"; exclusively destined to be included on the DSFA 6/"Paradise of the Underground" compilation CD, for the Dutch based DSFA label.
Pentacle's first vinyldesecration "Exalted Journey", emerged a few mooncycles later; from the Belgian Midian Creations; a 2 track 7" EP to spread the ceremonial onslaught even further...
In March/April 1996, Pentacle's ranks of the depraved were joined by axewielder Edwin, to create an even heavier and deadlier storm of slashing metalscythes, as the 12 " Picture Disc/ CD, "The Fifth Moon", proves. Selected to be relea­sed by Dis­pleased Records for the CD, and Damnation Distribution for the vinyl­version, it contains 4 new blood wrenching grapes of wrath and, again a recording of Hellhammer's "The Reaper" as a bonus track for the vinylversion.
After the release of this infernal storm of evil Pentacle did in november 1996 an small European tour with Belgian warriors Ancient Rites. Countries as Belgium, France, Germany and Holland fell under this deadly Metalstorm... The reactions on the new product were very supporting. The limited Picture Disc (525 copies) sold as hell and the CD sliced many unexpected throats through pure aggression! Many gigs were done to spread the ancient message.
The year 1997 started with the departure of their second axewielder Edwin as he wasn’t able to commit himself to the band anymore. The band continued to spread their mayhem as the everlasting ancient lineup, the threepiece. In the meantime gigs were done with bands as Obituary, Katatonia, Immortal, Cannibal Corpse, Emperor, Hades Almighty, Marduk, Desaster and In The Woods... . Several compilation CD’s have been desecrated through Pentacle's contributions.
Indeed, 1998 awaited the new album which has the obscure title "...Rides the Moonstorm". Again, Damnation Records was chosen to unleash their new release which is available on CD and DOLP. For this purpose the band recorded at Harrow Productions, Losser, Holland 9 tracks, of which 8 compositions are of their own and a cover of Chile's own Death Metal Gods Pentagram, called "Spell of the Pentagram". 2000 spawned a true metal coöperation with the German metal Gods Desaster. Both acts have covered a song of the other band and have contributed a new song. Named “Desaster in League with Pentacle” this hellish release was released on the German label Iron Pegasus as a limited 10” picture disc (100 copies) and a regular version (833 copies).
The new millenium has seen the release of a special anniversary release. A MCD / 12” called “Ancient Death” has been released on Damnation Records / Dark Realm Records. Containing 3 new tracks, an old song and 2 Mantas / Death covers (“Witch of Hell” and “Legion of Doom”) this deadly piece is a mark in the band’s history. At the same time a tribute to one of the ultimate bands, the almighty Possessed, should have been released on the Polish label No Mercy. Pentacle has recorded the “Beyond the Gates” track “The Beasts of the Apocalypse” for this purpose, but used it for a split 7” (“Dunkel Besatthet”) with Swedish act Repugnant as No Mercy didn’t react on any of the band’s inquiries concerning the tribute. In the meanwhile original drummer Marc left the band unfortunally. Marc wasn’t willing to do shows anymore. He has been replaced by Robert. This year the band did a small tour with Pulverizer (NL) and Desaster (GER) which attended Holland and Germany. More than 200 gigs have been played by now.
After having done gigs in Italy and Germany, it was decided that the band needed another second Axe-maniac. The search for such an addition was very short. Mike’s brother Alex joined the band after a small test period. After he had gotten his baptism of fire in Switzerland, he became a full member of the band. His second gig was as a support for the mighty cult band from Peru, Mortem!
In 2004, the much delayed Possessed tribute (“Seven Gates of Horror”) has been released through the Dutch label Karmageddon Records.
At the end of 2004, Pentacle entered Harrow Productions again to record 11 songs. The band recorded 8 tracks for the album on the German label Iron Pegasus Records, called “Under the Black Cross”. The CD version of this album is out now. The 3 remaining songs will be used for an EP (“Archaic Undead Fury”) on the US label Metal War Productions and a contribution for a tribute to Necrovore LP for the Dutch label From Beyond Productions.
After so many years of active service, the musical concept of the band is still firmly rooted in the golden ‘80’s, though remains far from being a mere copycat of the forefathers of extreme Metal. Don’t make the mistake to file Pentacle under the current retro-trend. They started performing their music when only a selected ( and loyal) audience still was interested in this honest style of music. Others sailed the seas of successive trends. Pentacle didn’t. Together with an obscure, yet individual lyrical approach, the band always worked hard to create a personal style, based on ancient Metal values. Remember this when listening to Pentacle’s releases...

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