Rites of the Pentagram is the full-length debut from California's old school thrashing deathcult Gravehill. That first sentence told you all you really need to know about the band's style: punishing old school thrash/death metal with blood soaked vocals. The album has all the veneer of an early 90s release, including a straightforward polish to its production, evil melodic leads, and all the right influences. I can hear everything from Dark Angel to Possessed to Sodom to Venom.
The album opens with a quote from Colonel Tigh of the new Battlestar Galactica series, of all things, and then proceeds to ravage you with the title track, a hammering unholy communion of grim melodic old school German thrash rhythms. Some of the best riffs on the album are within this track, and the solos rule. "Decibel Ritual" is an anthem about, well...death metal, and has a festive nature to it not unlike Razor or Venom. "Bloodsoaked" channels Slayer to create a driving apocalyptic force, with some brutal and well written riffs. "Pissing On Your Grave" opens with a slow, thrash/crunch section, but gets better when it picks up speed. Other good tracks here are "By Scourge & Wrath" and the doom/thrash "A Celebration of Wounds".
Though the band does wear some of that occult, necromantic imagery on their sleeves lyrically, Rites of the Pentagram is a fun album with a modest production. Gravehill have not sought to reinvent anything, but celebrate the genuine pulse of the time when thrash passed the torch to death metal, with a little black and doom influence to boot. It's a good album with good riffs and atmosphere. Recommended to fans of Razorback's old school hybrid bands like Ghoul, Crypticus, Decrepitaph, as well as the roots of death metal and brutal 80s German thrash.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10]