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Artist: Pentagram
Where: The Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
Date: 6/27/09
Order of Appearance: Earthen Grave, The Atlas Moth, Nachtmystium, Pentagram
Written By: Raising Iron

Seeing the legendary and reclusive Pentagram live has been a long-time desire of mine, so finally catching them on this miniest of mini-tours in Chicago last Saturday, June 27, 2009, was a real treat to say the least.

Arriving at the venue, The Empty Bottle, late afternoon afforded us the chance to catch the bands setting up and meet the one and only Bobby Liebling (vocalist and founder) of Pentagram! Getting autographs and chatting with the charismatic frontman was a more-than-great way to kick off the day, and hearing the 55 year old refer to himself as "Pentagramps" had us in stitches, let alone his hilarious and candid recollections of forty plus years in the biz. After that high-note, a requisite trip to Chicago's Metal Haven, and a stop for something to eat, we returned to the bar to enjoy the evening's festivities.

The newly formed Earthen Grave, who amongst their ranks include Ron Holzner, former alum of legendary windy-city doomsters Trouble, took the stage first. Having never heard them before, although I had heard OF them, I wasn't sure what to expect, and seeing they employed a violinist in the lineup had me figuring this would be something along the lines of a My Dying Bride nature. I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, they are a doom band, but doom is only a small element of what the band is really all about. For a detailed treatise on the band, see my coming exposition of their demo in the review section of the site, but suffice to say this band is onto something. Now, my Witchfinder General shirt I was sporting sparked a conversation before the show with a fellow metalhead who regaled me with the story of him and his buddies singing "Burning A Sinner" in their car on the way to the venue from Green Bay just a few hours earlier. After two originals, Earthen Grave lit into THAT very song, having said metalhead find me in the still somewhat sparse crowd to throw the horns and sing along, grinning the entire time. How often do you hear a Witchfinder General song covered, with the addition of a violin to boot? Simply amazing, and certainly a wonderful memory to take back to Michigan with me. Another original, then a cover of Trouble's "At the End of My Daze", wrapping up with a cover of Pentagram's "Relentless". This had the band finding the man himself Bobby Liebling joining them for the final chorus, truly a great opening effort.

Next was the young, new band The Atlas Moth, also from Chicago, whose 3 guitars plus bass wall of sludge/doom had the rafters rippling with approval. I hadn't heard of these guys before, and although they weren't really my taste, they performed exuberantly well, and had the crowd cheering during the approximately 40 minute set.

Following them were the blackened trip-inducing Nachtmystium. For regular readers of our site, you know my enthralled impressions of this act (see my reviews), and having now witnessed them live, I can only say my assessment is wholly reinforced and correct, despite what the die-hard, black metal naysayer would tell you. Watching them rip through "A Seed for Suffering", "Hellish Overdose" and "Life of Fire" off their latest EP, and "One of These Nights", "Assassins", and the crowd-slaying "Ghosts of Grace" with blistering aplomb was a veritable aural feast; volumes to eleven! Leaving the stage amongst a highly receptive crowd, the now packed bar of approximately 200 were ready for Pentagram.

Sporting most of their oldest and most classic of songs, the engaging singer danced frenetically and chaotically in between the delivering of lyrics, even finding himself on all fours, crawling, falling, and spilling all over the small stage. Bobby is a bewildering and at the same time rapturous spectacle to watch; tongue wagging, splayed hair, and maniacal eyes darting about; truly amusing and entertaining. "Living In A Blue Light", "Review Your Choices", and "When The Screams Come" all high-lighted the main part of the show, and even though current bassist Mark Ammen (of Unorthodox) broke his E-string about 4 songs in, he carried on with Ron Holzner's bass for about the next 4 songs while he waited for his bass to get re-strung. He was having a hell of a time keeping it in tune though, constantly readjusting the pegs between songs until he got his own instrument back over his shoulder. New guitarist Russ Strahan played the entire catalog with exacting standards and feel, bringing that old school tone into the 21st century. Requisite encores ensued, the first being "20 Buck Spin", another round of "good-nights", and then a final return to the stage for "Sign of the Wolf". Ending around 1:40am local time, we headed out into the rain-soaked night and back to our motel, absorbing the memories of the sounds still ringing in our ears.

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