Pentagram

One of the most enduring and influential underground bands in heavy metal history, Pentagram's career was almost 15 years old by the time they finally managed to record their first album. Though invariably led by mysterious frontman Bobby Liebling, the band's volatile membership made it difficult to maintain any kind of momentum and kept them confined to metal's outer fringes. But interest in Pentagram's convoluted history continues to grow and their crucial contributions to the development of heavy metal seem at last to be receiving some of their late, lamented due.

Pentagram first came into existence in 1971 in Woodbridge, VA, when singer Bobby Liebling met guitarist/drummer Geof O'Keefe. In the coming months, the duo played with a variety of local musicians, including guitarist John Jennings, bassist Vincent McAllister, and drummer Steve Martin, but by early 1972, McAllister had switched to guitar, O'Keefe took over on drums, and Greg Mayne joined on bass guitar. This lineup of Liebling, McAllister, Mayne, and O'Keefe would remain intact for the next six years, and though they occasionally performed under different names, including Virgin Death, Stone Bunny, and Macabre (the last of which graced their first single, "Be Forewarned," in 1972), they always inevitably returned to Pentagram. Another element of stability was their musical direction, which never strayed too far from the distorted psychedelic hard rock of heavy metal pioneers like Blue Cheer and the Groundhogs. A set of independent 7" recordings, "Human Hurricane" and "When the Screams Come" (this last was never released) preceded their first live performance on December 15, 1973, by which time a visible Black Sabbath influence had begun to take hold. Second guitarist Randy Palmer joined their ranks mid-1974 and his addition coincided with Pentagram's most prolific period of the decade, including close calls with record deals from both Columbia and Casablanca Records. But by 1976, Palmer was out (briefly replaced by Marty Iverson) and all of the band's professional prospects had dried up, leaving Pentagram to grind to a halt at the end of the year.

Relentless After years of silence, Liebling was finally encouraged to resume his career in mid-1978, when he met a musical soul mate in local drummer Joey Hasselvander, but it wasn't until Halloween 1981 that Pentagram was truly brought back from the dead. By then, Hasselvander had joined a new group called Death Row, which featured a young, Black Sabbath-obsessed guitarist named Victor Griffin. When Liebling stopped by for a jam, creative sparks flew almost immediately and with the addition of bassist Martin Swaney, the group officially assumed the Pentagram name once again. More years of hard work playing in clubs and composing new material followed, but in 1985, Pentagram finally recorded a full-length, self-titled debut (minus Hasselvander, who was replaced at the last minute by drummer Stuart Rose). Later retitled Relentless, the record may have been dedicated to Blue Cheer, but its contents owed an almost singular stylistic debt to Black Sabbath and along with its even more accomplished 1987 successor Day of Reckoning, it helped set the stage for the looming doom metal movement. Not fast enough for Pentagram to capitalize, however, and following another lengthy hiatus, a new contract from Peaceville Records finally led to another comeback via 1994's Be Forewarned LP (featuring a reinstated Hasselvander). But the musical climate of the time was very unfriendly to heavy metal of any kind, and the doom scene had never managed to coalesce as expected, leading Pentagram to another, seemingly final breakup.

Review Your Choices Then in 1998, a clandestine, unauthorized collection of early Pentagram demos and live bootlegs, entitled Human Hurricane, was unexpectedly released, prompting Liebling and Hasselvander to take action. Both 1999's Review Your Choices and 2001's Sub-Basement combined new compositions with updated versions of the band's ancient classics and featured Hasselvander playing every instrument. The controversy also sparked greater interest in Pentagram's music and its substantial impact on the heavy metal genre, culminating in the priceless (and this time fully authorized) collection of long-lost '70s recordings entitled First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection). Another compilation, Turn to Stone, arrived later in 2002, compiling material from their Peaceville albums that had gone out of print in the late 90's.

Brant Bjork

In addition to being a member of two of the 1990s' leading stoner rock bands, Kyuss and Fu Manchu, drummer Brant Bjork has also issued solo albums on his own, produced others, and runs his own record label. Hailing from Palm Desert, CA, Bjork began playing with guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri, and singer John Garcia while they all were still in high school, resulting in the formation of Kyuss. The group's Sabbath-like sound fit in perfectly with such other then-current bands as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, which resulted in the release of the 1991 indie debut Wretch, before the band signed on with Elektra. Kyuss issued what has gone on to become one of the decade's landmark metal releases, 1992's Blues for the Red Sun, which almost single-handedly created the ensuing stoner rock movement. Bjork also showcased his songwriting talents, single-handedly penning two of the album's highlights, "Green Machine" and "50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)."
But the original lineup began to splinter shortly after the album's release as Oliveri left, and Bjork did the same after the release of 1994's Welcome to Sky Valley. After his exit, Bjork kept himself busy by producing others, including Fu Manchu's 1994 release, No One Rides for Free, another album that is held in reverence by hard rock fans. Bjork then joined the group as its drummer a few years later, appearing on such subsequent Fu Manchu releases as 1997's Action Is Go, 1999's Eatin' Dust, 2000's King of the Road, and 2001's California Crossing. Throughout the '90s, Bjork also found time to create his own indie label, El Camino Records (which later would be retitled Duna Records), appear on other artists' recordings (Josh Homme's Desert Sessions series, etc.), and launch a solo career with the 1999 release Jalamanta. Also during the late '90s, Bjork was briefly an early member of Homme's post-Kyuss band, Queens of the Stone Age, but exited before appearing on any recordings.

The early 21st century saw Bjork form a trio named Ch'e (issuing a lone album in 2000, Sounds of Liberation), in addition to playing as part of former Kyuss bandmate Oliveri's project Mondo Generator (2000's Cocaine Rodeo and 2003's A Drug Problem That Never Existed) and issuing further solo releases (2002's Brant Bjork & the Operators and 2003's Keep Your Cool), 2015's Black Power Flower and 2016 forthcoming Tao of the Devil. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Royal Thunder

Royal Thunder is a three-piece progressive rock band based out of Atlanta, Georgia. RT was formed in 2004 by guitarist Josh Weaver, his brother and his best friend. The band began performing in 2005 and over the years, there have been several lineup changes. Since October of 2012 the members of RT are as follows: Josh Weaver (guitar), Evan Diprima (drums) and MLny Parsonz (bass/vocals). Since Diprima joined the band in October 2012 the band has been heavily touring the US.

In 2007 they self-released their EP and started touring; at this time Jesse Stuber was on the drums. In 2010, Relapse Records took notice and signed RT re-releasing their EP; later in 2012 they released their full length album, CVI. Both the self-titled EP and CVI were recorded, produced and engineered by Joey Jones of Aria Studios whom the band has a long standing working and personal relationship.

Recently the trio recorded acoustic version of three songs from CVI with Weaver on acoustic guitar, Diprima on drums/percussion, and Parsonz on vocals and piano.

Black Wizard

Black Wizard is a Heavy Metal and Stoner Rock band from Vancouver, BC, formed in 2009 between four high school friends.

Founding members Adam Grand and Eugene Parkomenko, still in the original line-up, were both working a shitty construction job at the time, cranking the likes of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Witch, Electric Wizard as loud as possible to get through the day on site.

Heavily motivated by Vancouver’s thick, heavy scene with bands like Bison and 3 Inches of Blood ruling at the time, “The Wiz” was born. Having always followed a single independently and sold over five thousand copies worldwide.

In the last few years the band has been busy touring Canada, The United States and most recently spent this past fall on a month-long tour in Europe. Having shared the stage with the like of Sleep, Uncle Acide, C.O.C., the Shrine, Atomic Bitchwax, Mos Generator, Kylesa, Weedeater, Witch, Black Mountain, Zeke, Cauldron, Pierced Arrows, Saviours, Joy, their best buddies in Anciients along with many more, there show no signs of them stopping in the new future.

Black Wizard is now releasing their brand new record ‘New Waste’ and will be touring the US and Europe again in the next six months. The current line-up consists of Adam Grant (Vocals/Guitar), Eugene Parkomenko (Drums), Evan Joel (Bass) and Danny Stokes (Guitar).

“The only band in town that will add inches to your dick!!” – Gord (BeatRoute Magazine

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