Live: Doom Metal Veterans Pentagram Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary at Europa


Club Europa
Thursday, January 6

Better than: Going completely deaf anywhere else.

Metal has a habit of cannibalizing its own classic sounds in times of inspirational drought, and it doesn’t take much for a few well-meaning homages to spawn a whole revival trend. Classic death metal, thrash, and traditional metal have all seen, for better or worse, tremendous resurgences in recent years, and with the new contenders come swarms of elder statesmen who see a second chance at glory, flooding the market at both ends with mediocre re-hashes. But every now and then, something great resurfaces that makes it all worth it.

Admittedly, D.C’s classic doom crew, Pentagram, have never really gone away since the band’s founding in the early ’70s, but they’ve earned a well-deserved swell of attention in recent years, due in no small part to some prime headlining real estate at the 2010 Maryland Deathfest and a strong retro-doom revival. The blessings of Decibel Magazine‘s Hall of Fame don’t hurt either.

Europa was that gross, sticky kind of packed, with everyone there to give frontman Bobby Liebling and company a huge pat on the back for the first night of their two-part, 40th anniversary celebration (the finale will take place tonight in Providence, RI). Victor Griffin’s malfunctioning guitar rig caused a torturous 25-minute delay of their set, but all was forgiven as soon as waves of loping, cavernous fuzz poured out of the amps.

Though draped in distortion, Pentagram often sound more akin to any number of 70s rock institutions than they do the funeral dirge of Black Sabbath. Together, Griffin and Liebling, who looks like he should be cryogenically frozen before he disintegrates into a cloud of hallucinogenic angel dust, fuse fist-pumping, drug-induced swagger with the primal sounds of metal’s basic essence of evil and ill temperament. Pure brutality may not be their stock in trade, but that doesn’t stop die-hard metalheads from headbanging hard enough to accidentally hit their faces on the stage.

Overheard: “I wanna hit whatever he [Bobby Liebling] did.”

Critical bias: I did not hit whatever he did.

Most metal t-shirt: Ninja riding a unicorn. I gotta hear that band.