Everywhere I’ve looked, “Show ‘Em How” has received high praise. Now whether that’s because people actually think the album is just that good, or more so because PENTAGRAM releases are few and far between, I honestly don’t know. But any band as highly regarded as PENTAGRAM, that has only released six albums (not counting compilations and live releases) in nearly 40 years, is bound to receive some praise simply for actually releasing an album. Now, after several spins of “Show ‘Em How”, I’ve convinced myself that the praise must come from about a 50/50 split of the two reasons.
Unlike the last two PENTAGRAM releases, “Show ‘Em How” is a full band effort, but still with vocalist Bobby Liebling being the only band mainstay. The rest of the line-up is rounded out by scene veterans who absolutely hold their own to PENTAGRAM musicians of the past. The guitar tone still bleeds that thick, meaty, 10-ton sound that Victor Griffin perfected so many years ago (which in itself pays plenty of homage to Tony Iommi’s mighty riffing), bringing to mind smoke-filled rehearsal pads and red-hot tube amps. The leads and solos, along with the general groove of the album, owe a large debt to 70s Heavy Rock, and while the album as a whole fits into the Doom Metal genre, there are ample nods to Stoner Rock, Doom Rock and 70s Hard Rock. In fact, there are multiple instances that bring to mind the monumental riffing of MOUNTAIN, and other bands of that ilk. Of course, it would be wrong not to mention that several of these songs were actually written during the 70s (as is the case with most PENTAGRAM releases), so “Show ‘Em How” cannot be thought of as a tribute album, but should rather should be viewed as a genuine article that arrived a little late.
Instrumentally speaking, “Show ‘Em How” is great for any fan of Doom/Stoner/70s Rock and Metal, with tight performances and raw emotion. But where the album becomes a bit hit-or-miss is in the vocals of Mr. PENTAGRAM himself, Bobby Liebling. Upon my first listen, I found his style and delivery to be a bit too much to take this go 'round, and it all but ruined the experience for me. However, I soldiered on, and continued to listen several more times, and while his vocals are still a little, well, off at times, they also add a unique charm to the album. His various “oohs” and “whoos”, can wear a bit thin, and it’s clear that his lifestyle has taken a toll on his voice, but that’s also part of what makes “Show ‘Em How” such an endearing album.
Now as for the songs themselves, they’re all plenty enjoyable for the genre, but as with most albums there are varying levels of quality to be found on “Show ‘Em How”. The three strongest tracks can be found within the first four songs of the album (“Wheel Of Fortune”, “Elektra Glide” and “Catwalk”), and these also happen to be amongst the heaviest tracks of the album. Sandwiched in between these is “Starlady”, a reworking of an older song, which is not bad, but tends to kill the momentum by being an upbeat 70s rocker amongst a group of Doom stompers. The two ballads, “Prayer For An Exit Before The Dead End” and “If The Winds Would Change” prove that Liebling is still quite capable of showing his emotional side, but never get remotely close to being sappy, while the one-two punch of the final two tracks ends the album in style.
While ”Show ‘Em All” isn’t exactly the masterpiece that many make it out to be, it’s still a damn fine album of Doom Metal/Rock with more than just a nod to the 70s Heavy Rock era. This is certainly not the best album of PENTAGRAM/Liebling’s career, but it’s still a Doom milestone anytime this enigmatic band/figure releases an album, and “Show ‘Em All” is a worthwhile purchase to any genre fan lucky enough to find a copy.
(Online June 10, 2009)