These days, when Bobby Liebling sings “These are gonna be my last days here…” he really means it. The dude looked like death warmed over when I saw ‘em down in Cleveland last year, and his touring troubles continued recently, with missed gigs and pissed-off openers on their last trek. The backing band behind him is rock-solid, but this is more than likely Pentagram’s final hour, as opposed to its finest.
With that said, it’s fitting that Relapse is reissuing the record that really made ‘em a household name in the first place. First Daze Here was a compilation of obscure, basement recordings from the mid 70’s that went on to become chestnuts of the heavy rock underground—and while many would reappear on later Pentagram releases, these are the definitive versions, right here.
“Forever My Queen” snaps and bites with a semi-Sabbathian stomp and a leering, lurid lyric. This song shoulda been a hit back in the day, if only Bobby didn’t piss in Gene Simmons’ cornflakes (or however the story goes…) “When the Screams Come” is proto-doom at its finest, a downtrodden, melancholic gutpunch that makes its mark in no more than three minutes. “Walk in the Blue Light” is a personal Penta-fav, with a gritty, sweeping riff and crunchy, cracking percussion that makes for slow-motion headbanging perfection. (Incidentally, I haven’t seen it in their live set since the Russ Strahan days, though I might be mistaken.)
Chances are, if you own at least one Pentagram t-shirt, you’re probably familiar with most of this tracklist; from “Starlady” to “Lazy Lady,” “Review Your Choices” to “20 Buck Spin,” there isn’t a bad tune in this bunch. They end things on a sombre note, with the haunting “Be Forewarned” followed by the depressive “Last Days Here.” The reissue adds a couple bonus tracks—alternate versions of “Be Forewarned” and “Lazy Lady” from the Macabre 7” (which I believe was an alternate band name they were using for a time). These two have a cleaner, brighter sound befitting a more professional recording, but the bones are very much intact. If you already have the original 2001 pressing, it’s probably not worth buying this for the bonus tracks.
But hey, if all your hipster friends are telling you about this retro vintage band called Pentagram, and you still haven’t actually heard their music yet, this would be the place to start.