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Pentagram Live at Pawtucket RI’s The Met

The 40-year history of American doom progenitors Pentagram is so fraught with splits, lineup changes and drug-related mishaps that their mere existence as a touring band in 2014 is something of a miracle. Frontman Bobby Liebling has remained the group’s sole permanent member since 1971, and a glance at Pentagram’s narrative since then reveals serious struggles with addiction and a band almost constantly on the verge of collapse. And yet Liebling has persevered. The lineup has settled on guitarist Victor Griffin (an on and off member since 1983), bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley. The group recently wrapped up a 10-date headlining tour alongside NYC’s Kings Destroy and reunited Philadelphia power trio Bang on a chilly Sunday night in Rhode Island.

Pawtucket is a sleepy town on a Sunday evening, but leave it to Pentagram to wake it up. The band took the stage at The Met just after 10:30 and between the beers being routinely tossed across the room and the nonstop stream of crowd surfers, things got very rowdy very quickly. Liebling, with his mass of frazzled grey hair, skinny jeans and cowboy boots, held dominion over the crowd by way of wild-eyed stares and the indefinable magnetism of his presence. He’s an endlessly fascinating figure to watch on stage, from the dance moves to the high-kicks to the moments where those eyes could actually convince you he was possessed. Vocally, too, Liebling was on point; he can still match his decades-old takes on the classics.

Not to be outshined by their leader, the rest of the band kept in sync as well. Turley and Saley’s thunderous rhythm section was effectively pummeling, while Griffin’s fiery guitar work impressed. They tore into plenty of the classics; “Sign of the Wolf” and “All Your Sins” made early appearances and “Be Forewarned” and “When the Screams Come” comprised a massive first encore. Though they favored their Griffin-featuring records – the debut, Be Forewarned and Day of Reckoning – the band also cherry-picked from a few of the more recent releases for a satisfyingly balanced setlist. They sounded vital throughout the night, and an eager crowd was all too happy to respond in kind.

Before Pentagram decimated the stage, The Met was also treated to a pair of disparate but quality opening sets. Iowa’s Radio Moscow couldn’t make it out to the tour’s final night, but Bang and Kings Destroy had no trouble picking up the slack. These 10 dates constituted Bang’s first tour in over 40 years, and both Franks (Ferrara [bass/vocals] and Glicken [guitar]) seemed genuinely elated to be back on stage.

They delivered a set of their melodic proto-metal with total charisma, and despite their relative obscurity, a fair portion of the audience seemed quite familiar with them. One such attendee began headbanging hard enough to cut his face open on one of the stage-front monitors and begin bleeding into his Narragansett tallboy during “Questions,” which ought to be some testament to the band’s power.

Kings Destroy did an admirable job of opening the night, particularly as the youngest band on the bill by a number of decades. Their crushing stoner-doom sound was given room to breathe with an extended set time, given Radio Moscow’s absence, and they made good use of it. As always, vocalist Steve Murphy’s animated stage presence anchored the set and made for a memorable opening.

—Ben Stas


Kings Destroy


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