Album of the Week 44-2012: Pentagram – MMXII

Not every band can get through the process of replacing an iconic singer without any damage. When the amazing Murat İlkan sadly left the band, Turkey’s Pentagram did the right thing and replaced him with Gökalp Ergen, who has a completely different timbre. And that also grants the band the chance to take things in a slightly different direction. ‘MMXII’ is still instantly recognizable as Pentagram, albeit slightly more direct and less elaborate arrangement-wise than on their more progressive works with İlkan. ‘MMXII’ is first and foremost a Metal album. A good one. Pentagram style.

Ergen is rawer in the more Metal passages and more akin to the better Turkish pop singers in the cleaner passages. This sounds like somewhat of a contradiction, but the band uses these extremes to great effect on this album. As much as I love İlkan’s powerful vocals, I wouldn’t hear him doing stuff like ‘Wasteland’ and parts of ‘Beyond Insanity’ as fierce as Ergen does them. Also, the softer regions of his voice work extremely well with the Turkish material on this album. I can’t, for instance, picture any better singer for a song like the melancholic ‘Geçmişin Yükü’. I have somehow always felt very attracted especially to the Turkish Pentagram songs and somehow, it does make a lot of sense with Ergen at the helm.

‘MMXII’ is a relatively heavy album by Pentagram standards. The guitars by Metin Türkcan and founding member Hakan Utangaç are heavy and crunchy and stuff like ‘Wasteland’, ‘Beyond Insanity’ and to a lesser extent opening track ‘Sand’ are probably the heaviest the band has done since the humble Thrash beginnings of the first two albums. This isn’t without a strong sense of melody, however. This album is best when the heavy riffs blend with the hypnotizing melodies.

My favorite tracks are the more epic ones. ‘Doğmadan Önce’ has a brooding atmosphere and a beautiful chorus that could have only come from a Turkish band, and not only because the song is in Turkish. The acoustic intro to the song is downright spine chilling and there are some awesome twin guitar harmonies throughout the song. The killer guitar solos do the rest of the work. ‘It’s Dawn Again’ shows Ergen at his most passionate in the chorus, while being backed by riffs that seem easy, but leave a lot of room to impressive nuance. ‘Ápokalips’ is a killer, stomping epic, ‘Now And Nevermore’ has a great build-up and melodic sensibility and ‘Uzakta’ is a very strong Turkish Metal song with another great guitar solo.

Why any European label has consistently refused to release Pentagram’s post ‘Unspoken’ output is beyond me. This is a band that doesn’t only rate among one of the best Oriental Metal bands, this is absolutely one of the greatest bands on the planet at the moment. They have strong songs, a great singer, extremely capable musicians and a unique sound influenced by their home ground. Many bands try and emulate the oriental sounds within their Metal framework, but the guys in Pentagram live and breathe these melodies. They never forget they’re a Metal band, however. Now go out and see if you can find ‘MMXII’ somewhere. Like the rest of Pentagram’s discography, it’s worth the effort.

Recommended tracks: ‘Doğmadan Önce’, ‘It’s Dawn Again’, ‘Ápokalips’

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