Review by Carl on November 14, 2023.
Pentacle, it's the one band that truly embodies the spirit of old school death metal. Not surprising in the least, keeping in mind that Wannes and his squadron of death are at it since 1989, and if there is one band that understands what the style is all about, it is this one. Consistency is a word that is not lost on the band, and they have been unloading their metal-plated brand of death onto the world for years, never disappointing while managing to keep up a steady stream of quality releases. And as every journey needs a start, we'll be returning to the humble beginnings of Pentacle, taking a look at their first offering outside of the demo circuit, their 1995 EP "Exalted Journey".
Pentacle shares their DNA with like-minded outfits such as Divine Eve, Winter, Order from Chaos, Cianide and their fellow countrymen of Asphyx. Delivering a heady and heavy dose of midtempo to creepingly slow death metal that sounds as if it has been around since the dawn of man, with as most obvious influence being Celtic Frost/Hellhammer. This is primarily felt in the glacial tempos that alternate with the pounding, more uptempo parts that make up their sound, being performed with a doomed-out and crushing sense of heaviness. Aided by a production that is actually really good for such an underground product like this EP, with a total sound that benefits immensely from the clearly audible bass guitar that merges together with the dense guitar tone in a punishing fashion. This strangulating ooze of crushing guitar is solidly underpinned by the pounding percussive execution, that never goes fast but keeps to a steady tempo, constructing a beyond sturdy base for the growling, throat-shredding vocals of Wannes Gubbels, reminding me of Martin Van Drunen at times. It's a stout mixture of traditional and especially pure death metal, that isn't afraid to let the influence of acts like Messiah, Xecutioner, Chile's Pentagram and the already mentioned Celtic Frost shine through, without sounding like a clone of these acts.
What I really appreciate about this EP, next to the punishing heaviness it exudes, is that the band takes the time to let their songs unfold themselves, making good use of the chugging riffs and percussive barrage on offer. Both "Exalted Journey" and "Son of the Dawn" get the chance to breathe. The tracks sound open, while the details in the music do not get lost in the mix, and that is something that at times gets forgotten by the contemporary throwback acts crowding the scene these last years.
A thoroughly enjoyable EP, this gives a good idea of what Pentacle has to offer. On later releases they would inject somewhat more velocity into some of their material, which isn't a bad thing, because however solid these two tracks are, a whole album of it would have become tedious. As a starting shot, this is a great offering, without doubt. Go check them out, if you haven't already, and let that truest of old school death metal feeling permeate your bones.
Or as the band themselves always put it: don't forget the ancient feeling, it still rules!!
Rating: 9 out of 10195