Inspired by iconic pioneers Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, and the Stooges, as well as unsung hard-rock heroes like Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust, and Bang, Virginia-based band Pentagram forged a dark, foreboding sound in the early 1970s that should have made founding lead singer Bobby Liebling a rock star. Though blessed with preternatural songwriting gift and remarkable tenacity, Liebling was equally cursed by his own destructive appetites, which coupled with industry indifference, shady business dealings, and just plain bad luck to keep Pentagram struggling in the shadows for much of its existence.
That's all changed over the past decade. Between 2001's legitimate archival compilation First Daze Here on Relapse Records, which documented the band's oft-bootlegged early recordings (a second volume would follow), and the growing recognition of '80s-era Pentagram albums featuring Tony Iommi acolyte Victor Griffin on guitar as early doom classics, Liebling and company finally started to get their proper due. Now three years sober, with a wife less than half his age (it's true; check out her blog) and a new baby, the singer has reunited with Griffin to release arguably the most fully realized Pentagram album yet — Last Rites, on Metal Blade Records — in time to celebrate the group's 40th anniversary this year. All Shook Down asked Liebling about his past and his future via email ahead of the band's appearance at the Power of the Riff Festival alongside such heavyweights as Chicago post-metal band Pelican, German crust outfit Alpinist, and much more tonight at Mezzanine.
Some of the interviews with you talk about your early interest in '60s acid rock and proto punk, particularly acts from the Detroit area. Did any of your pre-Pentagram bands lean more in that direction?
I'm not sure we ever tried to really lean in one direction or another aside from just wanting to make it ever heavier. We took riffs and had inspirations from other initial ideas, but I think it's always sounded like Pentagram. Even in my earlier bands.