Review – Gravewurm: Blood of the Pentagram

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Review – Gravewurm: Blood of the Pentagram
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Gravewurm: Blood of the Pentagram
Black Metal, Death Metal, Doom Metal, Thrash Metal
Hells Headbangers
October 26th, 2010
Release length: 42:54
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Gravewurm is one of the most infamous names in the underground Black Metal scene, and has been for years. Formed in 1990, the band has released a steady stream of releases, mostly being demo material earlier in their career, and latter being that of Split and EP releases, with very few actual full-length albums in the mix. Of course, this release, Blood of the Pentagram is the second full-length to be issued in the year 2010, with Black Fire preceeding it by only six months. Typically, this is a sign of downtime causing a surpluss in material to record, or just a hastily recorded release. While some of their earlier material was enjoyable, this recording simply doesn’t have much ground to stand on, regardless of how raw or underground it is, falling into the hastily recording category.

Granted there’s no concrete evidence outside of the release window to dictate this, as both releases are on different labels, but given the material present, it’s pretty clear the band didn’t really spend that much time working on this release. Generally shifting between Doom and Death Metal atmospheres throughout this release, but primarily sticking to a Death Metal sound, this effort just comes across as effortless, but in a bad way. Blood of the Pentagram starts out well enough, but as soon as the vocals kick in, it becomes clear that something isn’t necessarily right. The production of the music is very raw, and is podded down in volume into the background of the album, retaining that general Black Metal distortion to the guitars, all leaving the album without much of a bite musically, especially with the drumming that sometimes sounds off in the beat and as if it were a bad loop, such as one of the transitions half way through “Brought Before the Altar”, which features a little bit of a Thrash influence in there, which seems to be lacking from the release. The first track, “Goat Command”, also has this near the end of the song, and can be picked up on at various times where you can tell the part of the kit was just hit too early, but sometimes manages to somehow stay in beat, and “Grave” has guitars that get a little complex, but wind up not matching the drums at times, especially at the start of the song. On top of that, the guitars are as generic as they can be, composed of simple riffs moving at a mid-tempo pace, and sometimes slowing down, such as for the track “Necromance”.

One of the most irritating things about this release is that, while the simplistic music isn’t too bad, it’s the vocals that kind of hold it back. While the performance itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it really does take a lot of getting adjusted to, as well as an open mind, to really look at the low rhaspy yet gutteral approach utilized as something serious and not just a half-assed vocal performance. However, that also causes a problem, as sometimes the vocals just come off as a Death Metal vocalist recording in the studio while suffering from a Cold or some kind of illness that restricts the ability to properly talk, sing, or perform gutteral vocals. It’s a unique take on it, as sometimes you get the idea that it’s just an old demonic spirit saying things to do, especially with the gurgling effect from the back of the throat. This wouldn’t be so bad had there been some kind of effect or something utilized on them to match the volume level and overall raw sound of the music that appears in the background, as these vocals sound very clear and nowhere near as raw in the first place.

Another problem with this release winds up being the ending to each song. Sadly, every song on here is just faded out. The band actually never closes out a song themselves, and if you listen to the ending of “Grave” and the start of “Deeper Dungeons”, as well as plenty of other tracks on here, you would imagine that the music was meant to bridge the two songs together, or even have “Grave” bleed into “Deeper Dungeons”, but instead, “Grave” is faded out, and at a far too quick then necessary manner, as if they were quickly cutting something off a live track that was a screw up, or simply shouldn’t have been recorded. Another issue with this is that sometimes it genuinely does just cut the song off. The title track, “Blood of the Pentagram”, finds the vocalist mid-sentence when the split second fade out hits, leaving the listener to wonder what exactly the rest of the song sounds like, and why it was like that since this is one of the more enjoyable songs off the album.

So, is there anything really redeeming about this album with all these issues? Well, yes there is actually. For as simplistic as the music is, there are still some songs on here that are enjoyable, though nothing jaw dropping. As stated, “Necromance” is a song that leaves the listener with mixed emotions, but the slower parts do give off a nice atmosphere, and when it picks up, it does stand out a little bit as it seems to have some extra effort put into it. “Grave” winds up having some good guitars that have a little bit of a bite to them, and despite the poor drumming that sounds looped, “Brought Before the Altar” does have some nice simple guitar work to it, and features an actual ending to the song instead of a quick fade out, but it cuts the very end of it just slightly so that the random noise the vocalist makes stops before it actually finishes, but only by, say, a split second. “Hordes of Hell” also manages to be an enjoyable track, as the music is a little faster, actually ends without being cut off, and the vocals seem to have a little power behind them. “Two Coins for Charon” also stands out, but not because it’s an enjoyable song, but due to the keyboards that give off a melancholic feel that “Necromance” was trying to convey, but didn’t quite make it. Perhaps if there were keyboards to that slower song as well, it woould have been better.

Blood of the Pentagram has some enjoyable songs, but there’s really nothing all too fantastic about the release. The low quality (lo-fi) production of the album gives the music a very raw quality, but much of it just becomes repetitive with simple music tracks, vocals that don’t really do much, and sometimes are bad enough to put later Chris Barnes to shame. Much of the album feels dull, lacking any real bite, rushed, and not that well produced, with technical errors that creep up into the music, but in a sense, that’s also a charm for this album and works in favor of a few select songs. Other then that, Gravewurm had a decent idea, but in the long run, this album sincerely feels rushed, and will probably only come out of the shelf again, even by the dedicated, die hard underground fans, as something with little to no replay value after a short while, except as something to spin on Halloween to set a b-movie-type musical atmosphere to the album.

01. Goat Command – 3:14
02. Grave – 2:21
03. Deeper Dungeons – 3:58
04. Blood of the Pentagram – 3:15
05. Necromance – 3;52
06. Brought Before the Altar – 3:01
07. Infernal Devilry – 3:34
08. Lycanthropic – 5:23
09. Hordes of Hell – 2:42
10. Two Coins for Charon – 3:34
11. In Praise of Evil – 3:04
12. The Sign of a Dark Destiny – 4:56
Initial Pressing Score: 4.5/10

Gravewurm (band)
Gravewurm

Digital review copy of this release provided by Hell’s Headbangers.