November 1st at New York City's Gramercy Theatre turned out to be a night of vintage heavy rock & doom not to be missed. First, I've long wanted to see US doom legends Pentagram, second, since hearing of the reunion of early '70s proto-metal legends Bang I've wanted to make sure I caught one of their rare live performances. Third, throw in modern doomsters Blood Ceremony, and you have three reasons why New York City was my destination on this rainy November evening.
Apologies to heavy rock act Kings Destroy, but due to an early start time I arrived just a little late and just missed their set. All indications are that they went over quite well. The reunited Bang were next up, and many of the fans in the audience were overheard talking about the band prior to their taking the stage, clearly anticipating hearing just how they would sound close to 40 years after their break-up. Original members Frank Ferrara (Bass & Vocals) and Frank Gilcken (Guitars & vocals) were joined by drummer Jake Leger, and launched into a host of songs from their albums Bang and Mother/Bow to the King. If you've heard any of their original albums, their Black Sabbath-meets-Grand Funk Railroad-meets-The Beatles-meets-Budgie sound was intact throughout their somewhat short set, the fans delighting in Glicken's huge wall of riffery and smoldering heavy blues rock solos, while Ferrara & Leger pounded with some serious groove. Their old mild hit "Questions" went over very well, as did lumbering heavy rock numbers "The Queen", "Our Home", and
"Lions, Christians", more than satisfying those doom fans in the house who perhaps had never heard the fan before, and for the hard rock aficionados familiar with the band, it signaled that the band was back in a big way. It also appeared that they were really enjoying themselves, which was great to see, so hopefully more new music is on the way and continued live performances. A truly great, thunderous set.
Mixing Black Sabbath styled doom, Jethro Tull influenced flute blasts, and Deep Purple's Hammond organ led hard rock, Blood Ceremony have quickly become favorites among metal fans in recent years. With only a short amount of time for their set, the band truly gave it their all in front of a rabid audience clearly hanging onto every vocal line, flute passage, or organ flourish from the bewitching Alia O'Brien. Paired up with the crushing riffs of Sean Kennedy and the massive grooves from Lucas Gadke & Michael Carillo, Blood Ceremony played three songs from their most recent release The Eldritch Dark, including the chilling "Witchwood" and the monstrous "The Magician", as well as a few older favorites. The music of Blood Ceremony is so captivating, and while it's clearly 'doom', the band throw in many other elements that give them a sound that comes across as quite unique. Live, they are even more exciting than on album, and based on the reaction from the crowd, they are a band on the rise and gaining new fans with each performance.
Much like Bang, Pentagram have been around since the early '70s, and though lead singer Bobby Liebling is the only remaining original member, the current line-up of Victor Griffin (guitar), Greg Turley (bass), and Sean Saley (Drums) have been delivering the goods with the vocalist for a few years now, with Griffin especially having plenty of history with the band adding his crushing riffs to a good amount of their back catalog. Now signed to Metal Blade Records, the band have been enjoying some higher profile exposure thanks to their 2011 release Last Rites and more frequent live performances. Other than "Nothing Left", the bulk of the set was comprised of doom classics from their back catalog, including legendary cuts "Forever My Queen", "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)", "Review Your Choices", "Relentless", "Be Forewarned", and a mind-melting "Death Row", but the group threw in a brand new tune "Lay Down and Die" which contained some of Griffin's heaviest riffs of the evening. Liebling was really on his game throughout the night, his vocals strong & powerful, and despite the fact that he seems completely burnt out from all his past years of drug addiction, his newly sober lifestyle seems to be doing wonders for his voice.
The current line-up of the band is tight, and they easily sound like they have been playing together for decades. With a wealth of killer material behind them, it's really surprising that this band never really made it beyond 'underground legend' status, as their material is clearly more powerful than so many higher profile doom acts on the scene. This is a band not to be missed if they come to your town, and hopefully Pentagram have some more new music in them at some point to follow up their great Last Rites album from a few years ago. All in all, a great night of classic heavy rock & doom for anyone who loves vintage sounds.
Concert Review by Pete Pardo
Photos by Pete Pardo
All Your Sins
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
(Nina Simone cover)
Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)
Forever My Queen
Review Your Choices
Lay Down and Die
(with Relentless reprise)
When the Screams Come