Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gorgoroth - Pentagram (1994)


Pentagram is a classic album of True Norwegian Black Metal. On this album, Gorgoroth did everything right. Nothing is out of place. Every riff, every arrangement... every single note is exactly as it should be. This should be regarded as nothing less than a masterpiece. The only negatives that anyone might be able to dig up is that it bears similarities to bands such as Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone. The rhythm section, in particular, brings to mind some of the faster material from the early Burzum albums; however, this seems to be executed in a style similar to what Mayhem did on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The drums are kept simple enough (taking a cue from Darkthrone) and add the occasional fill when needed. At times, the intensity of built up to introduce a new riff, but they march forward, steadily, for the most part. The heavy echo gives them a thunderous feel, reminiscent of Burzum. The rhythm guitar adheres to a similar pattern, filling in the low frequencies and providing the melodic foundation for the harmonies of the lead guitar. Despite these influences being obvious (aren't Darkthrone's influences quite apparent as well?), Infernus displays a great talent for songwriting and has created some truly amazing riffs. However, stunning riffs don't necessarily equal a classic album. That's where the arrangements come in. Everything is played at precisely the right moment, sending chills down your spine, at times. Pentagram shows a great sense of climactic narration that takes you to the heights of the mountaintops and back into the swirling abyss, damned to suffer eternally. For every bit of vicious energy that comes through, there is also an atmosphere of sorrow. All the instruments work together to create compositions of breathtaking artistry. The vocals are no exception.

Hat's extremely high-pitched vocals are absolutely insane. To my knowledge, there was nothing else quite like this at the time, and no one has ever come close since. Apparently, there are some that do not appreciate his vocal approach and I can't fathom why, as it suits the music without question. His voice seems to take the role of a rhythmic instrument, rather than as a 'lead singer'. This is an intense album, to be sure, but the percussive vocals give it the final touch it needed to go beyond perfection. Despite showing some influences, this album is quite unique and added yet another element to the developing Norwegian Black Metal scene.

The album opens with "Begravelsesnatt", which translates to "Burialnight". This song is very short, and goes for the throat immediately. The fast tremolo-picked melodies cut through you as the high-pitched screams penetrate your skull. The style seems similar to Darkthrone, yet the execution is closer to Mayhem. The pace slows down just a little bit, right near the end.

Next is "Crushing the Scepter (Regaining A Lost Dominion), which is a bit slower and features some slower, doom-filled sections, and the open-arpeggio riffing that Burzum is known for. After plodding along, the song speeds up once more and unleashes a freezing cold lead harmony. As the song slows down once more, a sorrowful melody carries it to its conclusion. This is true brilliance.

"Ritual" begins with fast guitars, a somber melody and blasting drums, but quickly turns into a mid-paced dirge, complete with tormented screams from beyond. After swimming through lakes of fire, the song speeds up and slows down, carrying you to the peak and then letting you fall to the jagged rocks below.

"Drømmer Om Død" is next and starts with a more simplistic pace. Beautiful lead harmonies, weave in and out, until the song builds up into a complete monster, crushing everything in its path. The thunderous drums, menacing guitars and hellish vocals unleash their fury before fading away, leaving only an echo.

"Katharinas Bortgang" begins with the same intensity as the title track from Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Rather than droning or using repetition to lull the listener into a trance, the song builds, steadily, higher and higher in an effort to unleash war upon the pearly gates. The melodies are nothing short of pure genius.

"Huldrelokk" is an instrumental track that features a good number of excellent riffs. The speed is fast yet the harmonies create a dark atmosphere, as is present on the rest of the album. How a two minute instrumental piece can possibly be so epic, I'll never quite understand. Credit must, again, be given to the sheer brilliance of Infernus.

"(Under) The Pagan Megalith" keeps up the pace from the previous song, carried along by Hat's inhuman screaming. The song features a surprising thrash riff, then slows down into something reminiscent of Under A Funeral Moon, complete with bells, before speeding up once more. I once heard someone say that Gorgoroth was a generic Black Metal band. Honestly, I have to wonder if they've even heard this because this is anything but generic.

And, finally, we come to "Måneskyggens Slave". This is the climax of the entire album, and one of the most epic Black Metal compositions ever made. Everything is here; the fast tremolo riffs, the slower arpeggio riffs, the blasting drums, the terrible shrieks, the freezing melodies... More important is the way that everything is arranged. The break, where everything stops except the guitar is one of my favorite moments on the whole album. Like any great, epic song, this takes you on a journey. However, even describing every single note would never come close to explaining the importance of this song. The melodies are dark and sorrowful, yet the song is filled with energy. There is a definite 'Metal' vibe (for lack of a better term) that seems to urge you on, as if into battle. You know that your enemy possesses greater numbers and that you will not defeat them, yet you will meet them in battle, nonetheless.

Twenty-nine minutes. Just under half an hour, yet this possesses the epic nature of an album twice as long, at least. Sometimes forgotten, Pentagram is evidence that Gorgoroth were equal to and, sometimes, superior to their peers in Norway and beyond. 1994 saw the release of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Transilvanian Hunger, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and even In the Nightside Eclipse, yet none of these highly regarded albums can overshadow the brilliance put forth here. Gorgoroth may have arrived a little late, but they were in no way inferior to the rest. If you don't own this, seek it out at any and all cost.