The simplified, VH1 history of rock music tells us that Black Sabbath’s landmark first two albums Black Sabbath (Warner Bros., 1970) and Paranoid (Warner Bros., 1971) buried the 1960s rock aesthetic with the strength of a thousand Sha-Na-Nas at Woodstock. But Sabbath wasn’t quite the peerless anomaly that popular mythology makes out. Under the group’s massive transatlantic shadow toiled an eclectic assortment of rock bands just as disillusioned with the pop music of the past decade, and just as compelled to forcibly harsh some vibes.
Pentagram has remained the most vital of these groups. The OG southern Hessians have maintained a cult fan base throughout a 38-year career, but the 2002 compilation First Daze Here (Relapse) helped a new generation of metalheads embrace their lo-fi proto-metal. Classic tracks like "Livin’ in a Ram’s Head" and the power chord masterpiece "Forever My Queen" justify Pentagram’s doom legend status, while softer numbers like the garage rock ballad "Last Days Here" and a relatively faithful cover of "Under My Thumb" serve as reminders of the band’s musical roots.
Pentagram is coming to town, and whether or not the various kick-ass opening acts on the bill were influenced by them, there’s a distinctive retro vibe at play. Since 2007’s Instinct: Decay (Southern Lord), Nachtmystium has been experimenting with old school electronic effects, lacing its basement black metal sound with Pink Floyd-like Moog and theremin drones. Last year’s Assassins: Black Meddle Part One (Century Media) finds Blake Judd and company taking their experiments in blackened space rock even further the headbanging energy of the songs’ traditional verse-chorus structures is complimented by Sanford Parker’s haunting electronic textures. Since Nachtmystium’s current approach is tailor-made for live drone-jams, it’ll be interesting to see how the Chicago black metallers’ set plays out.
Some enterprising dork could probably spend a lifetime documenting all the leftover Summer of Love tidbits that have informed the San Francisco music scene over the years, but trying to fit a band as innovative as Hammers of Misfortune into a greater rock canon is a total cop-out. Peter, Paul, and Mary they ain’t; clean, folky vocal harmonies take on a warped life of their own in the context of Hammers’ elegantly doomy guitar work, making what in lesser hands would be an obnoxious gimmick into an integral part of the group’s sound. They’re also way too fucking metal for their own good.
Be forewarned, indeed.
With Hammers of Misfortune, Nachtmystium, Orchid, DJ Rob Metal
Thurs/2, 8:30 p.m. (doors 8 p.m.), $20$25
375 11th St., SF