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PENTAGRAM- Livin’ in a Ram’s Head, b/w When the Screams come 7″ (High Voltage Records, USA, 1979)

PENTAGRAM sure have a one of a kind history, one that is not so unlike from that of Pagan Altar, for instance. Old bands that never got out of their regional context in their heyday and only started to get international recognition during the 90s and 00s. But other than Pagan Altar (the only altar I worship), Pentagram’s musical output is very inconsistent in quality and not comparable with the brilliance of PA.
Some people call this band a part of the Doom Metal scene, for reasons I can not quite understand. Doom Metal is a subgenre of the 80s (like basically all Heavy Metal subgenres are), whereas Pentagram is a heavy rock band of the late 60s, early 70s. You may call this Hard Rock, Stoner Rock or whatever, but Doom Metal this is not. Why should it be, anyway.

This is PENTAGRAM’s best release. Unlike the albums, that all tend to be a bit of a drag with the overall lack of constant quality songwriting and much goofiness, these two songs don’t get on your nerves – and they’re a bit heavier than the material on the three previous 7″s. The sound here is the best the band ever had: Dirty, raw, pounding and you should hear this 7″ on my stereo – it’s really impressive, no mp3 can ever reproduce it in its full glory. “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” sure is PENTAGRAM’s best track of the 70s output (my fave song will be “The Day of Reckoning” from the same titled album from 1987). Apparantly, these songs were written in 1973 already and you sure can hear that. They have an american sexiness Black Sabbath never had (or needed).
After this 7″, the band fell into a long sleep until the release of the first album in 1985 – and if music history would be a logical process of sorts, making certain phenomena disappear once they had lost their relevance, the band would have never come back to life. But maybe the whole retro thing already set in the mid 80s. Or maybe some bands and fans were just a bit too stubborn and continued to do what they liked, which is not a bad thing, after all. When I ask around about PENTAGRAM among old buddies who were there in the 80s, nobody seems to have ever even heard of them, that’s how irrelevant they were to the original, well, Doom Metal scene. Until, as I said, the retro wave had swept them back to the surface and given them some sort of historical relevance they never had (in the internet you will for instance read that PENTAGRAM were “pioneers of Doom Metal”, which is complete nonsense).
One or two years ago, I saw them live (with a horrible reincarnation of the band once known as TROUBLE, the quasi-archetype of Doom Metal) and one quick glance in the audience made it clear: About 80% were in their 20s. Fair enough.

This one goes out especially to Elisa and I hope it gives her the right ideas about Metal and whatnot. 😉

Living in a Ram’s Head.mp3
When the Screams come.mp3

26 Comments

  1. Thomas

    i can pretty much vouch for never having heard pentagram before st. vitus sort of became popular in the late 80’s. if there was really interest in the proto-metal of the 70’s i sure was not aware of it – at least in the punk scene or the more open minded post-hc-scene (music wise) they were not part of any heritance.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 13:51 | Permalink
  2. These rips sound great! I always wondered how you manage to get such superb quality.

    Totally agree with the Doom Metal thing. This IS stoner and yes nobody cared about them in the old days. Great band but as you said – they were just overlooked. Maybe due to the Thrash Metal thing that was huge.

    Love your blog and how you have a totally different perspective on many bands. Easily the best blog for all things Metal and Punk.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 14:02 | Permalink
  3. Elisa? Who is Elisa, King Bluebeard?

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    Your momma.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 14:37 | Permalink
  4. Carlito

    Great post Eric! I LOOOOOOOVEEEEE Pentagram and Bobby Liebling.

    You heard the sad news about old friend Phil Vane? He died yesterday.

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    I’ve heard of it, yes. It’s sad.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 14:47 | Permalink
  5. jeff

    the feedback on the first track made me think of slayer. this sounds like a stoner version of early queen but the vocals are sort of jim morrison, ozzy. imho

    [Reply]

    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 16:25 | Permalink
  6. howardx

    these guys have a crazy discography going back to the sixties (as stone bunny of all things) at some point they were also known as macabre i think. i’d say my fave track was “forever my queen” personally. if people are into this i recommend “first daze here” great post!

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    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 17:48 | Permalink
  7. elisa

    thank you again!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 24-Feb-11 at 23:16 | Permalink
  8. dewey.decimal

    “you should hear this 7″ on my stereo – it’s really impressive”–cue drool, envy, slobber. What you rockin’ big boy?

    [Reply]

    Posted on 25-Feb-11 at 03:37 | Permalink
  9. Jeff Goldstein

    I saw this over 10 years ago on ebay for $20 15 minuets left. This was before relapse records and hipsters got outta control on Pentagram. I was out of work and loved (still do) this band and just couldn’t afford it. I’m still punching myself in the balls. Oh yeah, don’t Hassel the vander! Tee-hee!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 25-Feb-11 at 09:42 | Permalink
  10. funny that skip groff was connected with pentagram in the seventies – he is more known for his limp records and producing early dischord records, i guess; well, I was suprised to read that pentagram involvement

    [Reply]

    Posted on 25-Feb-11 at 11:56 | Permalink
  11. Government Issue covered “Day of Reckoning”, which was about the first time I’d ever heard of Pentagram (other than John Stabb cracking on them in interviews).

    [Reply]

    Posted on 26-Feb-11 at 03:07 | Permalink
  12. Hey, there’s a Bobby Liebling/Pentagram documentary that’s coming out in the next month or so… “Last Days Here”

    [Reply]

    Posted on 27-Feb-11 at 01:34 | Permalink
  13. Diego

    I’ve had the privilege of seeing Pentagram live twice now, and they always leave one utterly overcome with their power. Bobby Liebling has a presence unlike any I have ever experienced. They are from my area (DC/Maryland/Virginia) and I can vouch for their being pretty much doom metal gods in the underground community. Thanks for this post, Erich–it’s crazy that these songs sound different than those collected on “First Daze Here” which I think is actually a demo. Now I’m in the Bay Area and I’ve only met a couple Pentagram fans, but I’m slowly educating these West Coasters. Thanks for the great (awful?) music, keep em comin!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 27-Feb-11 at 21:57 | Permalink
  14. d.

    Hey! This single is awesome piece of vinyl. Great, great, great!!! So far my favorite post here, I’d say. Keep it vintage heavy and hard! Thanks again.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 28-Feb-11 at 09:53 | Permalink
  15. matthew

    bobby moved into my town and came into my work a few times. real eccentric fellow. nothing like opening up a folder on the computer and seeing pictures of him holding a dog and a baby…

    [Reply]

    Posted on 28-Feb-11 at 21:34 | Permalink
  16. Flo

    Thanks for posting this! Curious to download and compare to the reissue on the Relapse CD. I wasn’t around in the 80s, so I cannot tell by personal experience about PENTAGRAM’s reputation in the scene in those days – but I do remember to read their name when people like Lee Dorrian mentioned them and other (in those days) forgotten bands like WITCHFINDER GENERAL as major influences for starting CATHEDRAL and his label Rise Above. The CATHEDRAL demo from 1990 (later released on CD) even contained a cover version of “All your sins” from PENTAGRAM’s debut album. It seems that at least some influental people knew about them.

    Concerning the band belonging to the “doom metal scene”: they may not have belonged to the social/historic phenomenon. But musically I definitely hear them setting some of the roots for a lot of bands of that genre – maybe just as MC-5 or the STOOGES set up patterns for the later punk rock bands.

    By the way: the singing on most of the early 70s stuff, especially on tracks like “When the screams come near”, reminds me a lot of JETHRO TULL and makes me think I know this stuff since my childhood though it took me until the Relapse re-issues to finally hear that stuff.

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    Who cans reading is in the beforepart, my dear. 😉

    [Reply]

    Flo Reply:

    Yeah, yeah… seems I read one of your sentences more intensely than others …

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    I’m a distracting person, that’s correct.

    [Reply]

    Flo Reply:

    “Tu adore ce qui te brûle” 😉

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    Ich brüll doch gar nicht (mehr). 😉

    PS: Beinahe korrektes Zitat & Französisch.

    [Reply]

    Flo Reply:

    Hehe, oh Gott, ich hör besser auf!

    Posted on 02-Mar-11 at 16:08 | Permalink
  17. Nikolas

    This is fuckin 70’s early metal music. (!!!no Doom!!!)
    The guitar solo plus the drum beat (listen to this kick (!!!)….the birth of stoner)
    in the “when the screams come” is the dirtiest sound ever… the sound sabbath never had..
    Thanks Erich… Never listened before these 7” versions… this is SO GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 03-Mar-11 at 15:12 | Permalink
  18. eddie

    Erich, I posted a music blog awhile back and it’s not coming up in the search engine. How did you get yours to come up? Am I supposed to get comments in order for it to show up? Please let me know, thanks!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 04-Mar-11 at 22:58 | Permalink
  19. adp

    both songs from this Ep were NOT published on the Daze cd on Relapse.Daze cd’s contains demo versions from 1972-73, while these 2 were recorded in 1979. They were re-released on the A eg Full of Dynamite cd and the Human Hurricae, as well as one of the countless marshall Levi’s bootleg. The Relapse cd’s are far from being a complete collection.. some 65-70 songs are just missing.. (i’ve got all of them and Relapse criminally omitted some great tunes)

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    Posted on 08-Mar-11 at 17:26 | Permalink
  20. adp

    sorry, they were recorded in 1978, not in 1979. Dazes cd contain the same songs but taken from a rehearsal session from 1972

    [Reply]

    Posted on 08-Mar-11 at 17:30 | Permalink
  21. T S-words

    you call them pentagram, but to me they’ll always be brown sabbath

    [Reply]

    Thomas Reply:

    because they stink?

    [Reply]

    Posted on 11-Mar-11 at 04:59 | Permalink
  22. Phlegethon

    Another friend of classic rock gems from unjustifuedly forgotten bands, Jack White, has covered “Forever My Queen” with his project The Dead Weather. You can find it on YouTube.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 21-Mar-11 at 18:49 | Permalink
  23. dave starry

    Include me as one of those late to the Pentagram party. Never heard these guys back in the 70s/80s, but they sure enjoy a cult following nowadays. “When the Screams Come” sounded familiar so I did a search through my music library (now there’s something we could only dream of back then — it was down to visually scanning through cassette tapes one at a time) and sure enough found a cover of the song by Witchcraft as a hidden track at the end of their ’05 LP “Firewood”.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 21-Jul-11 at 22:50 | Permalink
  24. B.C. Miller

    I first heard Pentagram on a volume of Pebbles, of all things. They were credited as Macabre (which was true) and from the late ’60s (not true). The song was “Be Forewarned”, although it was titled “Gathering of the Tribe” (I guess as an in-joke for garage collectors who remember the “acid rock” comps). The mood and lyrics fit right into the macho stuff we were into at the time and I played it for the boys and they got really excited. “We’re gonna do Pentagram”? This was around 2002 before I’d dug up my metal-lovin’ Satanic Panic childhood (with the help of this blog). When they played me same song off a CD I assumed it was a cover, since the sound was so much better (even though it turned out to be a demo!) I’m ashamed to say I stuck to my guns based on “Pebbles” evidence, up to the point we played it for maybe 50 people and EVERYBODY recognized it and some even sang along. They clapped and made devil signs and I experienced something usually restricted to embattled politicians and the paranoid…the whole room applauded us not for the b-movie insight into the psychology of the nomadic barbarian, not for the D minor (saddest of all keys) intro and subsequent pounding (which seconds ago felt so HEROIC). That I wasn’t even close to a male warrior ideal was implicit in their appreciation. Probably their appreciation for their for our shared good taste, since Portlanders have evolved from hating metal (and rumors of metal) to appreciating it as the kitch artifact of a dying culture. (Half of any rock crowd in Portland is addicted to heroin and doesn’t get out much; it requires too much coke in the needle and a decent vein to stick it in.) It’s tough on the ego than being camp while reaching for the sublime; in Portland even a review of a drag show will go on about the “authenticity” of the culture; if they went to have have fun they’d feel like a freak show patron…what my dad says is the reason he doesn’t see more of our shows. The good thing about doing the Pentagram song was we instinctively did it last…but once off stage I wondered why I’d so gladly give the last laugh to the song with the collection of heads. The Vietnam-era rock critics shunning heavy music suddenly seemed less petty; to paraphrase Renoir, even an anti-war song becomes pro-war because it entices young men to prove they can control the mayhem. In the context of Vietnam, “Be Forewarned” scans like a John Birch tract. “Lazy Lady” on the flip pretty much completes the Republican doctrine in two songs. Fight and brood till you win, the female sphere is lazy. I’m sure the first song was an attempt to sympathize with war veterans, and the other about a specific girlfriend (I don’t get why he leaves her, sounds like she spends plenty of time in bed.) Anyway I know I’ve gone on and on putting myself in a bad light by putting guys I admire in a worse light, all due to this weird secret anger at myself when I was 24 and realizing there were some very bad things about “being cool”. Doom metal without speaks to I’m sure the guys were a lot like I was back then, attracted to heavy things for reasons they don’t yet understand. I still love the record, but it does show the mindset of the guys who skipped prom in favor of bootcamp. Both sides of the single above are about the kid when he gets back. Changing the band’s name to Pentagram (something that protects against demons; necessary whether you’re summoning them or fighting them) from Macabre (as in my corn of cob, trophy of the new world, scepter of my manhood, smoking device of the ancients, Faulknerian punisher of holes, and thanks to the miracle of Karo the scourge of the communist sugar cane.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on 31-Aug-11 at 11:05 | Permalink
  25. Per Eriksson

    Really great record!A heavy piece of vinyl which suites me just fine.Do you remember the canadian heavy metal band Moxy?They didn’t sound anything like this but they surely was heavy and intense for their time, especially on the selftitled debut album from 1975.Pure kick in the balls-metal!My favorite track right now is the killer “Moon Rider”.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 27-Feb-12 at 18:05 | Permalink
  26. Scott

    A little late here, but would you happen to know how many copies were pressed?

    Cheers.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 13-Jun-14 at 13:50 | Permalink

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