PHOTOS: CHRIS RUDY | “Pentagram should have been…” This statement can be ended a number of ways, but the most common answer from heavy metal fans is “huge.” They were the founders of what became known as “doom metal”—thick, huge, downtuned riffs accompanying grim, dark, subject matter. Pentagram’s name should be in the annals of history next to bands such as Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath as forefathers of heavy metal, but it was not to be.
Plagued over the years by lineup changes and enigmatic singer Bobby Liebling’s battle with addiction and personal demons (a battle that was documented in the 2011 documentary Last Days Here), Pentagram never made it to the limelight and achieved the commercial success of some of their metal contemporaries. They did, however, maintain a strong, loyal fanbase throughout the years.
Now it’s 2014, Liebling is clean, guitarist Victor Griffin has returned to the fold after a year-long hiatus, and they are playing a hometown gig in Washington, DC at….American University? As I looked around the room in the Mary Graydon Center Tavern at American University, I felt like I was at a well-organized DIY show. An open, almost cafeteria-like room, bright white lights in the place of stage lighting, and, much to the chagrin of the primarily older crowd, no alcohol was allowed on the premises.
Talking to bassist Greg Turley before the show, I asked him, “This is not where you’d expect Pentagram to play. How’d this happen?” He gave kudos to the AU Independent Arts Collective, the student-run group who put the show together. “These kids really wanted to make this show happen.” When speaking to one of the student organizers, he was over the moon that this show was happening. Hearing someone who wasn’t even born when the seminal album Relentless was released use words like “legendary,” it couldn’t help but bring a smile to my face.