Pentagram's Bobby Liebling gets his doom on at SXSW
Starting Wednesday, the avid SXSW attendee could witness a daytime and night show featuring a wide array of metal styles, and depending on the shows picked, see the same band, twice. Although one could find a group fitting just about every metal style, down tempo and stoner bands ruled this year’s festival. Some of these bands include Weedeater, YOB, Rwake, Hull, Crowbar, St. Vitus, Zoaraster, Kylesa, Red Fang. Scoot Inn’s showcase on Saturday undoubtedly boasted one of this year’s lineups.
Located east of Austin’s entertainment district, Scoot Inn’s not only played host to NOLA sludge legends, Eyehategod and doom pioneers Pentagram, it also featured up-and-comers Naam and Ancient VVisdom. Before seeing any of these acts, we embarked upon a long walk.
We weren’t used to attending ANYTHING, especially a concert, in the east side of town. We picked our usual parking spot (parking at SXSW is a bitch!), not knowing the distance we would travel. Scoot’s location meant walking through a bad part of town, so we walked home with gusto, leaving behind dilapidated buildings and corner-hawking drug dealers.
Scoot’s was a nice change of pace, though. Its small, outdoor amphitheater was ideal for the breezy, spring-like weather (spring comes early in central Texas). The picnic tables spread out near the entrance way provided rest or a place to munch on the sandwiches and skewered meat the venue’s food trailers offered.
Richmond, Virginia’s Cough opened the show. The Relapse Records band’s hard-hitting-but-slow-moving style of sludge fit well with Eyehategod. The group played catchy grooves, and their drummer bashed the skins with extreme aggression. This combined with their grimy guitar chords and ear-smashing bass resulted in a monstrous sound. However, the time between each note seemed like an eternity, and the group paid little mind to songwriting dynamics. The sheer power and dark vibe that exuded from their sound caught my attention, but after hearing what sounded like the same song throughout the set, I began to get bored.
Primitive Weapons played a form of hardcore catering to the old and new styles. They put on a descent performance, but were out of place on this stoner/doom bill. I spent this time socializing with friends and still wasn’t into the music when Ancient VVisdom took the stage. The Austin band caught my ears, though, when one of the members chanted, “We carry death out of the city.” Obviously, these guys closely follow the original Wicker Man movie, so I began to follow them. Featuring tracks from their split with Charles Manson (that crazy guy from California) and their upcoming "A Godlike Inferno" album, Ancient VVisdom (pronounced “Wisdom”) played an acoustic set of Satanic campfire songs, leaning towards Danzig’s slower, Delta Blues side. Their stage set up related a woodsy feel with antlers spread around a table. One member even played a machete as percussion. Later on, I found out Ancient VVisdom contains two ex-Integrity members and a musician from Iron Age.
I’ve read many press releases about Naam, but had never heard the group. I sought to ascertain if what I had read was all fluff. The Teepee recording artists played an energetic set of LSD-inspired-hairy-faced heavy rock. Dirty, tube amp riffs rocked the place. This trio’s groovy, spaced-out jams possessed an older type of flair ideal for preceding Pentagram. THE COLORS, MAN! THE COLORS!
Eyehategod started their set with a wall of wailing feedback. Once the group set their music into music, all chaos ensued. Pushing and bumping their way forward, the crowd packed in tight to see the scraping NOLA band. Shortly into their set, Mike Williams stopped to point out some trash-talking douche. He also made a few jokes. Just when we thought a fight would break out, the band jumped back into their set. Eyehategod’s drug-addled grooves had a filthy quality. Visions of waking up on the hard concrete of a dimly lit, run-down alleyway with puke-encrusted hair found their way into my mind.
Eyehategod’s grind beats gave a good contrast to their turtle-speed tempos. It also injected the crowd with a dose of the crazies. I managed to shoot a couple of photos from the side of the stage, but getting to the middle was an uphill battle. Jammed together like 20 clowns in a tiny car, I still
managed to get a couple of good shots. The group played classic cuts taken throughout their career such as “Take as Needed for Pain,” “White Nigger,” “Cigarette” and the new track “New Orleans is the New Vietnam.” The new material sounded good; it sounded like Eyehategod. That’s all you need to know!
I really didn’t know what to expect from Pentagram. I had heard differing accounts of their live shows. Some of these comments were positive; others felt the band had travelled over the hill many, many years ago. As if pulling a trick from the Lugosi Dracula film, Pentagram original Bobby Liebling gave the crowd eye-popping stares. Victor Griffin—Liebling’s former bandmate in Death Row—played doom riffs that rival Toni Iommi. In fact, I overheard two people conversing after the show about how Pentagram is the American version of Black Sabbath.
Pentagram may have never gained the success of Black Sabbath, but the group shares much in common with the Brits, including emerging in the early1970s. Their collection of hits such as “20 Buck Spin,” “All Your Sins, “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” and “Ghoul” showed why this group has such a cult following. Even the new track “Treat Her Right” from their latest recording Last Rites sounded great. After hearing the new album and this track in particular, I decided that this band does its best in a live setting.
SXSW’s schedule can be tricky. Newspapers and even club Web sites do not start promoting SXSW shows until the week before the music starts. This year contained more metal than I had heard of in the past four years. The Pentagram show marked the end of a great festival of metal.