As I dove across two lanes of traffic to get to what turned out to be the wrong entrance to the southbound Garden State Parkway, I couldn’t help but be reminded of what happened the last time I tried to see doom mega-legends Pentagram in New York and failed viciously. “Going south to go east?” you ask? Typical.
I rolled into Europa on Meserole Ave. in Brooklyn at maybe 8:30. Bezoar had already played, but that left Judas Priestess, Hull and Pentagram still to go, in that order. Judas Priestess took their time setting up and went on after nine. I knew already it was going to be a late night. A late Thursday is a romantic idea. It’s the ultra-metro NYC myth of “nobody goes out on Friday anymore,” as though no one in the audience had to get up the next day and go to work. For what it’s worth, I didn’t make it to the office today.
Once they got going, Judas Priestess kicked off to a solid start. Everything you need to know about them but their pedigree (members of Van Helsing’s Curse and Angel Rot), the name says. They are, indeed, an all-female Judas Priest cover band. Lots of very elaborate hair, lots of leather, lots of “hey, let’s rock it!” attitude and I had to wonder how many members of decent original bands were in the audience who’d kill to open for Pentagram while Judas Priestess ran their way through a too-fast version of “Metal Gods.” I can’t count myself anymore, but still.
They played “Deep Freeze” from Rocka Rolla in an effort to throw the doom crowd a bone, and it was appreciated. By the time they left the stage, Europa was so crowded that I could barely move. I stood by the bar in the corner and watched as patron after patron came over thinking the bathrooms were down the hallway. They weren’t, and I disappointed several dudes in telling them they had to go all the way around the claustrophobic clusterfuck of humanity to get to the other side of the bar. Too bad.
Hull were good. I like Hull. I’ve known those guys for years in a hand-shaking, “Hi, how are ya?” kind of way, and I’ve watched them grow over the course of however many of their shows I’ve seen into a real force on stage. They were heavy and loud, and they closed with the epic “Viking Funeral,” which might have been a bit much, but was still cool. They’re supposed to have a new album in the works. I look forward to hearing it.
The draw to Pentagram this time around — aside from the fact that they have a new album and thus new songs to play — is that recent Obelisk interviewee Victor Griffin is back on guitar. He had some amp problems before their set, meaning more delays, and they finally got started after 12:30 or so. Not that you need me to say it, but it was late.
Griffin‘s tone was dead on, and he wore the Pentagram songs like a well-fitting shoe on stage. It’s so rare to see a person so obviously born to do what they’re doing, but watching Victor Griffin play doom, that was the feeling I got. Vocalist Bobby Liebling‘s well-reputed stage antics were relatively subdued compared to other times I’ve seen the band, but technical problems are a momentum-killer and as I’ve already said, it was late, so it’s understandable. He still sounded pretty good, and the rhythm section of bassist Greg Turley and drummer Tim Tomaselli (both imported from Griffin‘s other band, Place of Skulls) were in the pocket the whole time.
Even with all the people who’ve been in and out of Pentagram over the years, it’s kind of strange to see Liebling fronting what’s basically Griffin‘s band. Hard not to get a feeling that history is repeating itself, remembering that it was the Griffin-led Death Row that became Pentagram‘s most classic lineup in the ’80s when Liebling joined on vocals. I didn’t get the chance to bring up the parallel to Victor Griffin, or to anyone else, for that matter, because I was too miserable, crushed in by the bar.
The new songs sounded fittingly riffy, and I expect that when Last Rites hits, it’ll be well received, at least by doom heads. Liebling‘s well-publicized sobriety has really given the band new life, and although I was worn out by the end of the show, I don’t think he was. They closed with “Pentagram (Sign of the Wolf)” and threw most of what you’d expect into the set among the new cuts. “Forever My Queen” is always a highlight.
The crowd had thinned out some by the end of the set, so I was able to make my way over to the main area of the venue to watch them finish. It’s astounding, the love that’s behind this band. I know they got paid to be there, but given how late it was, they had every right to cut the show short, or to half-ass it, and they absolutely didn’t. And when Bobby Liebling thanked the crowd at the end and said he loved New York, I didn’t think I was being paid rock-star lip service. He meant it. That’s the difference.
I got back to the valley at 3:45AM, lucky to be alive. I haven’t slept like that behind the wheel in a long time, and if I-287 hadn’t been a ghost town on my way back North (my route was circuitous and affected by my company for the show; would take a longer time to explain than is necessary), I have no doubt it could have been very unpleasant. Last thing I did before head hit pillow was email work and tell them I’d be late this morning. You can see above how that turned out.
Tags: Bobby Liebling, Brooklyn, Hull, Maryland doom, New York, Pentagram