Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Gates Of Slumber
Label: Relapse Records
Cold. Windy. Raining. Sounds like a good time right? Well, if you consider that this bleak weather scenario is sending you down into the B.B. King Blues Club to enjoy a night of vintage and newer Doom Metal then it is the perfect setting and one that will best prepare you for the event beyond the shadow of a doubt. It’s been about a year since we last found Pentagram performing in NYC and it was great to have them back so soon after that gig which I had actually missed based on another show conflict. Tonight they would be joined by Gates Of Slumber and since I was only the casual observer of the headliner and new to the direct support, I made sure to arrive in time to better absorb the whole mood properly. Here is what the night was like.
Gates Of Slumber: The Gates Of Slumber have been releasing their brand of crushing Doom Metal since about 2000 and oddly enough I had never really heard the name before this evening but that was likely based on my Doom Metal beginning and ending with bands like Candlemass and Trouble. There is clearly a New Wave Of American Doom Metal happening to coin a phrase and that’s good because there is something so pure about the genre that calls to mind the influential sound of the mighty Black Sabbath and shows what else can be done with it. They sounded pretty good tonight and seemed to have the audience behind them and when it came down to it I was feeling a whole lot of Sabbath vibe going on in their set. The three piece band is fronted by guitarist Karl Simon who also sings and Jason McCash handles the bass. Bob Fouts is on drums and interestingly enough I was wondering why he looked so familiar and then I realized how he had sat in on the kit when Nachtmystium did their recent tour with the legendary Black Metal Swedes Marduk. The guys played about 45 minutes this evening and I was a little surprised to find them being the only opening act on the show, but that meant an early night for a change which I could surely use. After the set the band members wandered around the venue and spoke to any fans that wanted to talk to them. Now onto Pentagram.
Pentagram: The interesting thing about Pentagram besides their being considered one of the true pioneers of the Doom Metal scene is that the band only consists of one original member and that is singer Bobby Liebling who actually owns the rights to the bands name. While formed back around 1971 they had a couple of short hiatuses in their activity which are based on a number of reasons including Liebling’s own unpredictability but tonight that didn’t matter as the singer was ready for action in NYC with a new lineup that he had put together in 2008. Joining him for the tour was Russ Strahan (guitar), Gary Isom (drums) and Mark Ammen (bass) and from the moment they all began to play it was clear that they capable players for the material. When Bobby came out after the introduction music he was a very animated individual up on the stage and was doing moves that I’ve only seen performers like Ian Astbury from The Cult do and maybe even Axl Rose in some sense. Since Pentagram has been at it for so long I was sure that they followed the teachings of Liebling when they were first introduced way back in the bands heyday. Musically this was a tight evening with the guys really doing some good and while Liebling had apparently lost some of his original luster with the vocal powers he sure made up for it in enthusiasm in how lively he was on the stage tonight. He was also very appreciative for the crowd that was in the venue and as I glanced around at them it seemed that I was in the minority about not knowing as much as I could have about them. Either way I was enjoying the presentation and it had me making notes on which albums I should look into as time allowed.
I snapped a visual of the set list and inquired of some friends who had been to the last go round and they agreed that it was largely the same set list rundown with the only noticeable difference being the order of tunes. That’s not bad since it made me feel as though I didn’t miss anything that last time. One friend had noted how no Victor Griffin penned songs appeared to be in the set and maybe this is due to some legal matters or perhaps the singer didn’t feel they were in tune with his own “vision” on how the band was going to move forward. With the set list being the same as that last time around one has to wonder if this is actually a coincidence or is something that is being done on purpose. Moving forward however the band is preparing to record new material which is called “Last Rites” and while it will come out sometime in 2010 I was not able to determine what label shall be putting it out.
There were less people than I had expected at this show, but it was still crowded and that was a good thing. My friends who went that last time felt that the show some months ago had found people choosing to miss this one to catch another gig. Interesting enough legendary Hardcore artisans D.R.I. was playing a late evening gig downtown while tomorrow we would find an appearance of Nile with Immolation as support and this show alone could have found the audience choosing to wait until Pentagram came back around for a third visit. I was glad that I had been able to join in tonight of course and especially since I had never been able to enjoy the band when they were first hitting the scene. The still have that underground feel to them and are likely kings of that realm in some sense. If you are a fan of vintage Doom Metal, the great news is how both Peaceville and Relapse Records have made a lot of the bands early recordings available. They are sure to be fine additions to your own Metal library so check them out. As I walked back out into the night air of New York City I was amused to find that while it remained biting cold, the gloomy rain and wind has subsided. I guess the elements had been cued up to get us all into the proper Doom mood and now with the show over they had moved on to other parts of the east coast.
Gates Of Slumber Set List:
1. Death Dealer
2. Ice Worm
3. Beneath The Eyes Of Mars
4. Blood And Thunder
Pentagram Set List:
1. Wheel Of Fortune
2. Forever My Queen
3. Walk In The Blue Light
4. All Your Sins
5. Review Your Choices
8. I Am Takin No More
9. South Of The Swamp
10. When The Screams Come
11. $20 Buck Spin
12. Sign Of The Wolf (encore)
I was able to secure some brief time with the guys backstage before the show happened and as result you can enjoy this candid of them as they were already raring to give New York a solid dose of Doom.
The corridor that leads to the main stage from the dressing room has a giant wall painting of the venue branding and since there was not a ton of equipment in front of it, I suggested to the guys that we snap a shot of them standing in front of it. They were of course happy to oblige the request.
Fans always ask me what its like backstage and I try to explain to them that there is generally not a whole lot going on based on the space available to bands and the need to prepare for a night of Rock & Roll or Heavy Metal. It’s primarily a place to work or to where the batteries are charged for the nights entertainment. Here is a sign pointing the band in the proper direction for their evenings needs.
If you’ve ever been to B.B. King Blues Club for one of the many Metal shows that they have, you know full well that since they serve as a restaurant as well that there are times when there are tables set up in the venue. Sometimes there aren’t and this diagram helps give the staff (and photographers that need to navigate the place) the official lowdown.