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Bobby Liebling & PENTAGRAM have been churning out widely admired hard rock / doom metal for over four decades. Withinitsfirst, this D.C. band is largely regarded as pioneering not one but two sub-genres of hard rock. At the onset of the1970’s,they helped procreate a behemoth called, “Heavy Metal.” Nine years on, they’d be planting the dark seed of whatwould growto be known as “Doom.” 2011 marks the 40th Anniversary of this American treasure and see the release of theirnew album,Last Rites, on Metal Blade Records.

When asked about his old band’s beginnings, co-fo more

Bobby Liebling & PENTAGRAM have been churning out widely admired hard rock / doom metal for over four decades. Withinitsfirst, this D.C. band is largely regarded as pioneering not one but two sub-genres of hard rock. At the onset of the1970’s,they helped procreate a behemoth called, “Heavy Metal.” Nine years on, they’d be planting the dark seed of whatwould growto be known as “Doom.” 2011 marks the 40th Anniversary of this American treasure and see the release of theirnew album,Last Rites, on Metal Blade Records.

When asked about his old band’s beginnings, co-founder and drummer Geof O’Keefe recalls, “It was 40 yrs ago in the fallof1971. I’m not sure if it was literally Halloween night but it was at least pretty close. I was sitting around with BobbyLiebling,my best friend from school. We were bemoaning our own bands, Shades of Darkness and Space Meat. We were alsotalkingabout how Blue Cheer had lost both their fire and guitarist Leigh Stephens. Cream had disbanded, and Hendrix had beendeada year.” That night an idea that could change hard rock history dawned on them. They should join forces start a newgroupplaying all original music influenced by the heavier bands they both loved! Out of love and frustration, PENTAGRAM wasborn.

Enter 1981. Joe Hasselvander, who joined the lineup in ’78, was dating a girl who had told him about her 18 yr oldbrotherVictor back in TN. Victor Griffin was a young, heavy guitarist already recording his own music under the name of DeathRow.On a family visit, Hasselvander traveled to Knoxville to see if this fresh-out-of-high-school musician lived up to hisreputation.“Back then Victor Griffin and Lee Abney, his bass player at the time, were already playing the Death Rowmaterial,”remembers Hasselvander. “Griffin had the songs and I was blown away by his playing. He had a sound that was a lotdeeperthan what Venom was doing and it was heavier and more Sabbath-y than what Witchfinder General was doing. In fact,Ithought that it was better than Sabbath. He was Blue Cheer mixed with Black Sabbath!.

Shortly before this period, while in high school, is where Griffin perfected the sound invention of “Drop B tuning.”Ofthetechnique, Griffin says, “I had been messing around with a drop D tuning which was also uncommon at the time. I hadbeenplaying around with it and dropping it lower and discovered something when I got to B. If you play a fifth chord on thetoptwo strings, it makes this octave. Now you have those seven-string guitars with the low B right on there. For thetimethough, I don’t know of anyone who had done that.” Little did he know at the time that he’d influence thousands ofplayers inthe future.

The band would coincidentally get signed to an unrelated label entitled Pentagram Records in 1985. Death Row recordedademo in 1981, which was paid for by Hasselvander. The following year, Liebling would pay for another. Three yearslater,these two demos would be put together to form the self-titled PENTAGRAM album. Merely days before the deal with thelabelwas inked, Liebling had convinced Griffin that PENTAGRAM was a better moniker since it was already well known in thearea.Fifteen years into his career Bobby Liebling and PENTAGRAM would finally release their debut album; a record whichnineteenyears later would be inducted into Decibel Magazine’s “Hall of Fame!” Sadly, Hasselvander was once again unhappyandrestless. Before the debut’s release and just after the second record was finished being recorded, he again parted waysandjoined N.W.O.B.H.M. / pre-thrash luminaries, Raven. Stuart Rose soon joined Liebling, Griffin and Swaney as thebandcontinued down its path to the top.

The guys played as many headlining gigs in the area as they could and opened for nearly every major label metal bandwhotoured through the DC area. Crowning this era was an infamous gig at the defunct yet historic CBGBs in NYC. As a resultofthese performances and unique, stellar songs, a new deal with international indie label Napalm was on the table. Thesecondalbum, Day of Reckoning finally hit the streets in 1987.

The same demons still haunted Liebling and his band however. This coupled with virtually no label support the group wassoondriven back into the grave. It wasn’t until 1994 when the band would come back together and record for Peacevillerecords.Hasselvander jumped back on board. He, Liebling, Griffin and Swaney dug down deep into the vaults and pulled out afew oldLiebling classics as well as the usual heavies Griffin had become known for. Be Forewarned came out to more fanfarethanever, even though that still kept them well beneath the mainstream. What PENTAGRAM started to realize, however, isthatthey had influenced a handful of heavy bands who, like them, sacrificed speed for weight of the riff. Doom metal was infullswing with every one of its bands, Trouble, Candlemass, Cathedral, and so on, sighting PENTAGRAM, along withBlackSabbath, as their main influences. At this time, Peaceville also obtained the rights to the band’s first two albums and re-released them to young doomsters hungry for the original recipe. It seemed that finally, PENTAGRAM would get itsdue.Regrouped and re-charged these D.C. doom godfathers gave it another go. Unfortunately, once again, Hasselvanderwasonce again fed-up with the madness and returned solely to Raven. Swaney soon too would become disheartened withthelack of tours, label support and usual rigors of a band living the “rock n roll lifestyle.” He also soon departed the band forasecond time. Despite all this, Liebling and Griffin forged ahead and recruited local drummer Gary Isom and Griffin’snephew,Greg Turley on bass. Stardom was still far, far away however and within a few short years, PENTAGRAM and mainmanLieblingonce again tittered over an open grave.

Fast forward to 1998…Hasselvander had rejoined the band and in 2001 PENTAGRAM released Sub-Basement and FirstDazeHere, a collection of Liebling’s best recorded 70’s songs. As quoted by Liebling, “This album finally gave me the growthsteps Ineeded to take in order to find a wider audience.” More rock and hard rock than doom, the soulful songs reachedacrossmultiple sub-genres of metal and rock and roll. Accolades of these uncovered songs started pouring in from famousandinfamous musicians alike as it went on to sell well over 10,000 copies. Covers would appear from respectedcontemporariessuch as Hank III, Witchcraft and The Dead Weather. People such as Liam Gallagher from Oasis sited Liebling’s1972 song, “BeForewarned” in his top five songs of all time. Finally, was the genius of Bobby Liebling and PENTAGRAMbecoming known bythe mainstream.

Empowered by the recent accolades, Liebling put together a few different line-ups in hopes of playing out liveagain.Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. Several, now infamous, false starts went down. One of these would happenin2001 at a doom fest in the DC area. After waiting over an hour to show up, Hasselvander, now on guitar, started thesetwithout him. The band played nearly their entire set before Liebling showed up during the last song. An upsetHasselvanderkicked Liebling in the shin and finished the song behind his amps. Another such event was at the Black Cat in DCin 2005.Liebling was indeed at the club on time but so was his drug dealer. He overdosed backstage and had to be revived bytheparamedics. Friends dragged him up onto the stage where he collapsed on the drum riser during the first song. He diedtwiceon the way to the hospital but luckily ended up pulling through. Right around this time, 914 Pictures (“The Art of theSteal”,“Rock School”) started working on a documentary on Liebling’s life. A labor of love, the film company worked slowly ontheproject in their spare time.

Another four years would go by as Liebling struggled against his demons. In his heart, he still wanted to createmusic.Encouraged by his friends and management, he got a band together again in early 2009. Focused and determined, onceagainthe man was ready to show ‘em how! Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan) joined back up on drums; Mark Ammen (Unorthodox)handledthe bass while Liebling’s self-described “secret weapon,” Russ Strahan, burned bright on guitar. A triumphant comeback showwas booked at the historic Webster Hall in NYC. It sold out as people traveled from around the world to showsupport.Highlighting songs from PENTAGRAM’s career, the gig went down in a blaze of glory. 914 Pictures was there capturingall theglory of the madman back at the mic in this historic setting. The performance proved why this band was worthy ofmentioningin between Black Sabbath and Judas Priest as innovators of heavy metal.

Things never came easy for Liebling though. They say that it is at these times of deep darkness that the light ends upshiningthrough the clouds brighter than ever. Liebling reached out to Griffin who at the time was fronting Death RowalongsideHasselvander and Swaney. Missing his old band mate and mentor, and seeing how hard he was trying to fly straight,Griffinagreed to a small run of US dates in the spring of 2010. Joining them once again was Isom and Griffin’s nephewandPENTAGRAM alumni, Turley. The gigs were a welcomed success and peaked on the main stage of the Maryland Death Festinfront of hundreds of eager fans. The gig was stellar and captured on film by a five camera crew. This show and tourwassuch a hit that the band again started plodding another attempt at finally making it.

In the fall of 2010, a 3 album deal with the historic metal label, Metal Blade Records was announced! "Last Rites", thealbumLiebling had been dreaming of for ages was announced for release in the spring of 2011. Also penned for release was aDVDentitled "When the Screams Come" featuring the entire set at 2010’s Maryland Death Fest! To top it all off, a handful of40thAnniversary parties were scheduled across the US and Europe through 2011.

Bobby Lieblings hard struggle of making "Last Rites" and getting sober, was shown in the documentary "Last Days Here" from2011.

PENTAGRAM has proved time and time again that giving up is not an option. With the strongest lineup yet, a clean andsoberLiebling, and 12 new tracks of pure classic metal coming to fans via "Last Rites", PENTAGRAM are poised to conquerthemasses and claim their rightful throne atop the metal mountain. « hide

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