Friday, February 22, 2013

OLD SHIT: Pentagram

by Steve Wichelecki The old rock 'n' roll cliche "almost famous" applies to no band more than Pentagram. Since the early '70s, frontman Bobby Liebling has continually clutched defeat from the jaws of victory. From blowing a major label record deal through Liebling's cantankerousness to the band choking during a private, once-in-a-lifetime performance for KISS to Leibling polluting his formidable talent with decades of hard drug use, no other band has ever been on the cusp of so much success and achieved so little. I will spare you the history lesson, as interesting as it is, and focus on the tunes. Those wanting to learn more, check out The Goddess of Doom's blog post and watch the Liebling documentary "Last Days Here" on Netflix. Pentagram formed in the early '70s, comprised of Liebling and some other dudes, and after some personnel switches what is known as the "classic" lineup was established. An early example of stoner rock, this incarnation of the band is a street-tough blend of hard rock, heavy psych and early metal. Heavy riffs, exquisite guitar work, beautiful songwriting and Liebling's one-of-a-kind vocal styling dominate. The gleaming gems from this era of Pentagram would and should have been released on Columbia Records in the mid '70s, but due to the aforementioned spat most of these songs never got past demo recordings. Songs like "Forever My Queen," "20 Buck Spin," "Lazy Lady" and "Last Days Here" deserve inclusion in the classic rock canon, and would be played on FM radio stations today had the album been released. But by 1976 major label interest had dried up and Pentagram withered and died.

Skip ahead to 1981, and Liebling resurrects Pentagram with some new dudes. This incarnation is regarded by many as the first doom band, and their debut album, known as "Relentless," has a long and complicated backstory that I won't get into here. What's important is that this album is amazing. Having gone largely ignored for the past 25 years or so, this masterpiece (like all things Pentagram) is finally getting its due with listeners discovering it through the aforementioned film "Last Days Here." Sometimes slow and sludgy, sometimes kicking into mid-tempo ragers, "Relentless" leaves the classic rock and psych behind. Dark, heavy with amazing songwriting by Liebling and Black Sabbath-obsessed guitarist Victor Griffin, "Relentless" is pure and pounding metal, and an album that gives listeners a delicious bonus in the form of a warm, low-fi recording. Below I've posted the remastered album in its entirety, but I would recommend snagging Pentagram's "Relentless" (and the demo collection "First Daze Here") from the Goddess of Doom blog.

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