A more unlikely survivor you would be hard-pressed to find. Both Pentagram and their lead singer Bobby Liebling have had nine lives and then some. For the first 30 years, Pentagram narrowly dodged chances to achieve success, instead staying underground and perfecting their craft of playing doom metal in the DC/Virginia area. Members have come and gone, then come and gone again, but the cornerstone of Pentagram has always been Bobby, and he never let it go. But the excess (even Keith Richards might cringe) and self-sabotaging tendencies prevailed, and Pentagram seemed doomed (no pun intended) to obscurity.
Then there was a twist in the story when Relapse Records decided to issue an anthology of ’70s Pentagram demos in 2001. That led to more exposure and success over the following few years than they had ever experienced in the preceding 30. All of a sudden Pentagram was THE doom band, and everyone was name-dropping them. [Editor's note: Well, almost everyone.] Who would have thought bands like The Dead Weather would ever be covering Pentagram songs on late-night talk shows?
Now, the band who for years couldn’t play shows more than a few hours from home (and where the connections were) are finally free of those chains to tour the US and even the world. Some recent (and sudden) lineup changes have led to ’80s/’90s mainstay guitarist Victor Griffin filling in temporarily for this string of shows, and the band is coming to Nashville for the first time on Friday night. So I called Bobby to ask a few quick questions to help get Nashvillians pumped on this gig, and from what I could tell there have been some changes in Mr. Liebling’s perspective on other areas of life too:
Nashville Cream: How are you feeling coming up on the 40th anniversary of Pentagram?
Bobby Liebling: It’s just a blessing that I’m coming up on that, and also my anniversary of being alive … my birthday is four days before the day the concept of Pentagram came to be on Christmas of ’70. It’s often said that it was ’71, but I think it was actually 1970. At least as I recall, but I am getting old, so you know. …”
Nashville Cream: So Victor’s back with you; how’s that been?
BL: Hey, I’ve never felt so much love in a room in my life. That’s all I can say. God bless him, man — he’s kept me alive. Between God, my wife and Victor … my whole world has turned around. I’m loving life, man. … it’s great to be able to wake up every day and be able to smell the coffee finally. And which way I’m going.
Nashville Cream: Back in ’95 or so I asked you to sign a record for me after a Pentagram show, and you inscribed it “All of it is my life. …” Is it? Is all of it your life?
BL: It’s all my life in the fact that people have mistaken Pentagram for 40 years. They think the band’s Satanic, the band’s got nothing to do with that. The band’s showing you … you’ve got to make a choice. It’s like the album Review Your Choices. There’s two ways you can go. You better learn or you’re gonna burn. "If the evil churns, you start to burn" … that’s no joke, baby! I found that out the hard way.
And there you have it. Pentagram will be at the End on Friday night, also appearing are Relapse heavies Black Tusk. This may be the only chance you will ever have to see the mighty Pentagram, especially with this lineup. Review your choices.