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Pentagram are one of the most enduring and influential underground bands in metal history with a trademark doom-laden style that's often compared to Black Sabbath. Laudatory reviews were abundant for 1987's Day of Reckoning, 1993's Relentless, and 1994's Be Forewarned, and they were bolstered by Pentagram's relentless touring and intense performances. Despite near constant lineup changes, singer Bobby Liebling kept the band alive. 2001's Sub-Basement was followed by several compilations. Liebling fronted the lineup of Internal Void as Pentagram for 2004's Show 'Em How. 2011's Last Rites sidelined doom metal with a meld of heavy metal and dirty blues-rock. 2015's Curious Volume generally adhered to the same format. In 2017, Pentagram toured for 18 months without Liebling after he was arrested and convicted of assaulting his mother. In 2023, Pentagram returned with the four-track EP, The Singles, featuring Liebling returning as lead singer. Pentagram initially came into existence in 1971 in Woodbridge, Virginia, when singer Bobby Liebling met guitarist/drummer Geof O'Keefe. In the coming months, the duo played with a variety of local musicians, including guitarist John Jennings, bassist Vincent McAllister, and drummer Steve Martin, but by early 1972, McAllister had switched to guitar, O'Keefe took over on drums, and Greg Mayne joined on bass guitar. This lineup of Liebling, McAllister, Mayne, and O'Keefe would remain intact for the next six years, and though they occasionally performed under different names, including Virgin Death, Stone Bunny, and Macabre (the last of which graced their first single, "Be Forewarned," in 1972), they inevitably returned to Pentagram. Another element of stability was their musical direction, which never strayed far from the distorted psychedelic hard blues rock of heavy metal pioneers like Blue Cheer and the Groundhogs. A set of independent 7" recordings, "Human Hurricane" and "When the Screams Come" (the last was never released) preceded their first live performance on December 15, 1973, by which time Black Sabbath's doomy influence had taken hold. Second guitarist Randy Palmer joined the ranks in the middle of 1974 and his addition coincided with Pentagram's most prolific period of the decade, including close calls with record deals from both Columbia and Casablanca Records. But by 1976, Palmer was out (briefly replaced by Marty Iverson) and all of the band's professional prospects had dried up, leaving Pentagram to grind to a halt at the end of the year. After years of silence, Liebling was encouraged to resume his career in the middle of 1978, when he met a musical soul mate in local drummer Joey Hasselvander, but it wasn't until Halloween 1981 that Pentagram was truly brought back from the dead. By then, Hasselvander had joined a new group called Death Row, which featured a young, Black Sabbath-obsessed guitarist and singer named Victor Griffin. When Liebling stopped by for a jam, creative sparks flew almost immediately; and with the addition of bassist Martin Swaney, the group officially re-assumed the Pentagram name. More years of hard work playing in clubs and composing new material followed, but in 1985, Pentagram finally recorded and released their full-length, self-titled debut (minus Hasselvander, who was replaced by drummer Stuart Rose). Later retitled Relentless, the record may have been dedicated to Blue Cheer, but its contents owed an almost singular stylistic debt to Black Sabbath and, along with its even more accomplished 1987 successor Day of Reckoning, it helped set the stage for the looming doom metal movement, although they weren't fast enough to capitalize on it, and following another lengthy hiatus, a new contract from Peaceville Records finally led to another comeback with 1994's Be Forewarned LP (featuring a reinstated Hasselvander). But the popular musical climate at the time was unfriendly to heavy metal of any kind, and the doom scene had never managed to coalesce as expected, leading Pentagram to another, seemingly final breakup. In 1998, a clandestine, unauthorized collection of early Pentagram demos and live bootlegs, Human Hurricane, was released, and spurred Liebling and Hasselvander to action. Both 1999's Review Your Choices and 2001's Sub-Basement combined new compositions with updated versions of the band's ancient classics and featured Hasselvander playing every instrument. The controversy also sparked greater interest in Pentagram's music and its substantial impact on the heavy metal genre, culminating in the priceless (and this time fully authorized) collection of long-lost '70s recordings entitled First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection). Another compilation, Turn to Stone, arrived later in 2002, compiling material from their Peaceville albums that had gone out of print in the late '90s. 2004's Show 'Em How, was the first in a trilogy of albums to nearly jettison doom metal in favor of an approach that joined classic metal and hard-rocking blues. The other two included 2011's Last Rites and 2015's Curious Volume. While fans generally approved of the stylistic change and bought these albums, critics proved much harder to please. In 2017, Liebling was arrested for "Abuse/Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult" (his 87-year-old mother) and pled guilty. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Pentagram, contracted to tour, utilized the singing talent of guitarist Victor Griffin as frontman. Liebling resumed touring with the band in 2019. Original bassist Greg Mayne died on November 13, 2021, at the age of 67. In 2023, Pentagram issued The Singles, a four -track EP.
© Ed Rivadavia /TiVo


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