Pentagram have become so synonymous with the excess and struggles of its vocalist and central protagonist Bobby Liebling (especially since the candid and troubling 2011 documentary, Last Days Here) that any sign of life from the band has become more than welcome. In fact, it’s been a not-unreasonable four years since their last opus – the respectable 2011 full-length, Last Rites – and, reassuringly, Liebling’s long-time on-off musical partner Victor Griffin is once again present, his recent well-publicised departure from the group apparently only temporary. Perhaps unsurprisingly there’s a definite sense of continuity between the two records, though, as a band who reportedly wrote 80 songs during the 70s, it’s never totally clear just how far back any “new” songs really date.
As seen in the excellent documentary Last Days Here, the redemption of Bobby Liebling and Pentagram is one of the great to-hell-and-back stories in rock history. One of the pioneers of American doom metal, Pentagram crafted some of the heaviest rock ‘n’ roll of the ’70s and ’80s, though little of it was heard outside collector and cult metal circles. These were lost decades for the band.
Pentagram are a band whose name conjures up almost mythical awe in the metal community; they're seen as the founders of modern doom, and one of the most important bands of all time. While there's no denying the impact this group had on forming heavy metal as we know it today, there are some other hard truths about these guys that fans don't like to talk about. Pentagram didn't actually put out a record until 15 years after forming, for example, and Bobby Liebling, their beloved vocalist, is pretty much a walking scandal.
Doom metallers 30 years after their debut. Pentagram have enjoyed a lot of goodwill in recent years, following the “Anvil effect” of the documentary Last Days, which depicted the tribulations of lead singer Bobby Liebling, reduced to drug addiction and living in his parents’ basement before recovering when the fortunes of the band revived. Moving stuff and you wish him well.
It took almost 15 years, but I think I’m tired of Pentagram. When I was a kid getting into heavy metal, the band’s 80s output introduced me to doom metal, and rumours of their legendary early 70s hard rock recordings stoked an air of mystery. But after reunions, reissues, documentaries, cancelled gigs, countless lineup changes and, now, another new record, that air has been dispelled.