Sanctus Bellum Summons Pentagram for a Not-So-Silent Night of Metal

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Nothing sucks worse than having a birthday in late December. It's not really even a debate at this point. Year after year, Christmas is all anybody cares about, and you wind up with a gross gingerbread cake and birthday presents under the tree. Nobody's trying to celebrate your ass.

If your birthday is doomed to be forever overshadowed by the Christ child's, you've got to create a spectacle to get any attention. For some of us, that means throwing a little crying fit. For Sanctus Bellum, it means calling up a couple of notorious pals to help them unwrap an unholy night of heavy-metal volume.

In order to properly commemorate the births of bassist Ben Yaker and guitarist Jan Kimmel, Sanctus Bellum put together something special for the El Birthday Metal Fest II. The local doom merchants will play three sets at Rudyard's on Saturday.

First, a typical Sanctus Bellum show, featuring all of the attendant riffs you've come to expect. Then, Helstar wailer James Rivera will join the band for a set of classic metal covers.

The final set of the night will feature legendary Pentagram vocalist Bobby Liebling on the mike for a suite of his songs that haven't been heard live in decades -- if ever.

For Yaker, it'll be a dream come true: The bassist calls Pentagram his favorite band. Liebling lost decades of his creative prime to drug addiction before making a startling, Roky Erickson-esque recovery recently -- the subject of the excellent film Last Days Here. With Liebling back playing shows at last, the chance to jam with the long-lost doom-metal icon will be Sanctus Bellum's birthday present to itself. And we're all invited to the party.

In a twist that's just got to have some kind of ominous astrological significance, Liebling's birthday happens to fall on this weekend, as well. I called him up this week to ask about the gig.

"I've met Ben at probably 11 different places or more," Liebling says. "We're his favorite group. He called me when I wasn't working on anything -- We're in the process of searching for a new guitar player. I had nothing to do, so I told him no problem."

The set won't be anything like the gigs that Liebling has been playing with Pentagram lately. Sanctus Bellum will highlight a few of the dozens of songs that the singer wrote in the '70s, but never played live due to his unstable behavior.

With Pentagram sticking close to a reliable list of classics on the road, the singer is relishing the chance to dig into some deep cuts.

"I don't really get off, oddly enough, on playing live anymore," Liebling says. "I mean, it's just the same old thing over and over and over again. That's why these songs will be fun, because I haven't gotten to play them in so long.

"They'll be exciting to do," he continues. "Mainly the stuff we haven't done before, like "The Bees," stuff like that. Songs we haven't played since '74, '75. That'll be fun, more than anything else."

After Sanctus Bellum has blown out the candles, doom fans may get to experience even more Pentagram songs that they've never heard before pretty soon. The band has already booked some European dates and festival gigs for the new year, but once that's done, the singer sounds determined to get the group back into the studio.

"In the studio, it's a lot more interesting, to me," Liebling says. "The first thing we gotta do is find a guitar player and break him in. And hopefully right behind that, I'm really hoping like hell to do an album. To me, we're overdue for a new album."

They're overdue for a Houston appearance, too. Until that happens, fans can at least show Bobby some Texas hospitality at Sanctus Bellum's birthday party. After all, it's Christmas!

With Cauldron, H.R.A., Owl Witch and Serpent Sun, 6 p.m. Saturday at Rudyard's Pub, 2010 Waugh Drive, www.RudyardsPub.com

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