While Pentagram might not be a household name, for heshers, they're practically The Eagles. But instead of cruisin' in a convertible down a beach in Southern California like I assume an elder Don Henley does on a daily basis, a 50-something Bobby Liebling — Pentagram's frontman and lone consistent member since 1971 — was living in his parents' basement and pumping drugs into his body.
If you've ever seen live clips of the band in its heyday, it's no surprise that Liebling spent a lot of time getting fucked up. His stage presence was defined almost entirely by looking like a raving lunatic. Seeing his wild hair and bugged-out eyes, one would be hard pressed to picture a more deranged frontman. But the dude could write a killer tune. His problem was a knack for imploding a band. That and the drugs.
Liebling is the subject of a new documentary called Last Days Here, which debuted at this year's South by Southwest. A promo clip for the film shows a strung-out Liebling, in an attempt to turn his life around, signing a contract that states if he smokes crack after Oct. 12, 2007, his manager and the film's director get his record collection. The camera then sweeps across a massive wall of vinyl. Dude's got a sweet collection.
That desperation came as renewed interest in Pentagram was about to grant the band another shot after decades of shooting themselves in the foot. A combination of bad luck and general dysfunction kept the band from achieving the classic-rock status that could have been theirs. Along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, Pentagram was an early pioneer of metal, specifically the slower, riff-obsessed strain of early doom metal. The diminished-fifth riff in "Black Sabbath" gave the genre its marching orders, but Pentagram helped bushwhack the path that countless bands still travel.
Pentagram's original '70s lineup leaned on heavy psychedelia, recording gobs of demos in low-budget studios and releasing singles that now fetch a small fortune on eBay. Unstable lineups kept the band unsignable, ultimately leading the group to disband in 1975. They re-formed in the '80s and eventually released a debut full-length in 1985 on influential underground label Peaceville — 14 years after the band first came together.
Guitarist Victor Griffin played a key role in forging the bigger, heavier sound the band cultivated in the '80s. His thicker, burlier guitar tone pushed Pentagram away from heavy psychedelia and toward just plain fucking heavy. The band would go on to break up, reshuffle and re-form countless times, dooming (pun intended) any chance of gaining traction.
All the while, metal's tape-trading culture turned Pentagram into legends, even as the world at large couldn't give less of a shit, and Liebling eventually moved into his parents' basement. Peaceville went on a reissue campaign while megalithic metal label Relapse reissued what were then recently unearthed '70s demos, the absolutely essential First Daze Here.
In the meantime, the doom metal that Pentagram helped create became the subgenre du jour of metal's Aughts-long re-emergence. Name-droppers in influential positions did their best to pluck Pentagram from obscurity. Jack White-starring Dead Weather even covered First Daze Here opener "Forever My Queen."
All this leads us to the Liebling's drive to put down the crack pipe once and for all — Pentagram's new album, Last Rites, is out now on Metal Blade. And it rules.
If the album sounds like a '70s time capsule, well, that's when the songs were written. In the May cover story of metal mag Decibel, Liebling claimed to have written 450 songs from 1970 to 1974. With former partier-in-crime and now-sober Griffin back in the fold, 11 of those songs are given the beefy treatment associated with the group's mid-'80s output. It's a collection brimming with energy and life performed by a couple of guys who are lucky to even be alive.
That same Decibel cover story also stated that, by Liebling's account and those close to him — though his body is now riddled with abscesses — he kicked heroin three years ago and hasn't smoked crack in two (no word on that record collection of his). With a newfound straight-and-narrow path and a new record that cements the band's shoulda-been-legends status, maybe Pentagram finally got their shit together.
http://www.reverbnation.com/guesthousestud… git some black rain y'all...very nice piece Mr. Anderson
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