PENTAGRAM: their arrival in the UK
9th December 2011: London, The Relentless Garage. A landmark day: Pentagram play their first ever UK live show. Forty years have passed since the pioneers of doom metal started their journey in the US. After seven studio albums (the most recent one, Last Rites, has been out since April this year,) countless compilations and innumerable line-up changes, the band is back and led by the charismatic founding frontman, Bobby Liebling. Sober, demon-free and reunited with guitarist Victor Griffin (to the delight of the true Pentagram followers,) the duo is happy to impart a few words about how history sometimes (and luckily) repeats itself so that some chapters will remain perpetually open.
Forty years of pioneering doom metal is an extraordinary feat. Would you have ever thought you would be doing this for four decades?
Bobby: The fact that we are back is, and I know this, a spiritual thing. For me, and I know that Victor feels some similarities in this, it is the reason that we are still here, and have got here, in a complete, hardcore, working order, considering all the obstacles and demons we had in our path.
What was the aspect that triggered your uniqueness when you started?
Victor: When we first met, we just had this chemistry and it hit it off for good. We have never really fallen apart from one another in the years that followed; there has never been bad blood between us, even we separated and took other paths for a while. The songwriting also was something very similar that we shared; it just all clicked together at that time and it’s pretty amazing we are still here now doing things we were making happen so many years ago.
Bobby: I went through stages in my life fighting substance abuse. I took a long road to come where I am, here today. I have been totally sober for two years now. We are all more responsible people today.
Your latest studio album, Last Rites, has been out for eight months now. It’s filled with a powerful sense of new found energy and creativity. How did you get it started again since Show ‘em How?
Victor: This is definitely the result of the crumbling of what Bobby had with his previous band members.
Bobby: I knew that with certain people around me, I wasn’t going anywhere; things kept on being screwed up.
Victor: Once all the details of our reunion came together, we just hammered it up. I did not want to deal with anything negative like upside down crosses and other blasphemous symbols; obviously the band name had a different story behind it and was a different matter. Another important condition was Bobby’s sobriety; he had been sober since we reformed.
Bobby: I still cannot believe it’s already been two years.
Victor: Then it all came down to get the deal with Metal Blade for the new album, our first major record deal. It could not have worked better for us, considering that we all live very far from each other between Pennsylvania, DC and Tennessee. We managed to get together at least twice a week and discuss the ideas we had for the new record; Bobby always had lots of ideas that he would pull out from old demos. We took those and did some rearrangements and then they have become modern. I even had some songs of my own that I managed to write in the last months. I am the first one to admit there is a lot of new stuff on the last album; it feels more dynamic. Songs like Windmills and Chimes have lots of energy. I love this song; it’s my favourite on the album.
Would you say that Last Rites is a very heavy album?
Bobby: Yes, definitely; however, what we do now is pretty different from what is being called doom today, which is played at ten thousand miles per hour, faster than your hands can move. We do not play like that. We are musicians, we play music. I am a singer, I sing.
Victor: We have been invited to lots of the doom festivals but yes, I agree. What we play today is purely heavy metal.
Of all the Pentagram albums, are there any of them which you would like to go back to and do differently somehow?
Victor: You know, I think about that sometimes. I wish I could go back and fix it, but the thing is, that is what we were at that time. We could go back to the first couple of records, pull out a couple of songs and re-do them, but people love the first records the way they are, raw and real, and those were markers of our lives at that time, not today.
Since you have been back together, what are the major challenges you had to face during your career, both artistically and personally?
Victor: Probably being on the road. It’s hard now as we all have families; ten, twenty years ago, it was all different. Also, today we do not have the same energy that we had when we were younger. Now we understand that all the energy that we generate on stage must come from the audience first.
Bobby: When we are on stage we give our hearts to our fans. It’s important that we see and feel this coming back to us.
Tonight it’s your first ever performance here in the UK. How come it took so long for you to come?
Victor: I am partially responsible for that because of my personal demons. We never really had too much support that would allow us to come all the way from the US and play. Now we have Metal Blade behind us and it’s all a different matter. Beside the fact that today with the internet, it has all become easier; some bands even manage to book their own tours.
Bobby: You have no idea how happy I am to be here. London is the capital of touring.
Any hope of seeing you at the festivals this summer?
Bobby: At the moment, we are booked for Sweden Rock (Sölvesborg, 6-9 June 2012) and Hell Fest (Clisson, 15-17 June 2012.) These are all confirmed and on a contract. We cannot wait!