PLACE OF SKULLS – As a Dog Returns CD
Giddy Up! Records/Exile on Mainstream
PLACE OF SKULLS is like BLACK SABBATH high on Jesus instead of drugs. In the past people really didn’t give a shit because it’s stoner rock, dude. The whole Christianity thing didn’t make a difference except for those who professed the idea that since weed was growing in the Garden of Eden then it should be legal to smoke. Also people usually cite BLACK SABBATH as having their share of Christian themed lyrics. Although I’ve always pointed out that BLACK SABBATH sang about a wide variety of issues including war, drugs, the occult, Satan as well as God. If one were to use a Doom band for an analogy on Christian themed lyrics than that would be TROUBLE. The reason why I’m bringing all of this to the forefront is that exploring the idea of spirituality whether personal or abstract is nothing new in Metal especially with Doom. So fully understanding what this band always had in mind as far as inspiration goes makes me wonder if this new one is more of mainman Victor Griffin (guitar/vocals) expressing his personal beliefs or is it full on proselytizing? Understandably if you’re against religious proselytizing in music, especially metal, then I suggest you throw away 99.9% of your Black Metal collection.
The biggest mistake Victor Griffin ever made with PLACE OF SKULLS was to have the godfather of Doom, Scott “Wino” Weinrich, appear with them on 2003’s With Vision release. Not that it’s a bad album on the contrary it’s an essential by every standard of traditional doom. The problem is that it’s become the band’s high water mark since their 2002 release Nailed. On this latest one Griffin reunites with the original PLACE OF SKULLS line up of Tim Tomaselli on drums and bassist/vocalist Lee Abney. Of course the hipster hype for this was high, I wonder if that was before or after anyone heard the power ballad about Jesus, “Though He Slay Me”. That’s just one of many “born again” favorites which appear on As a Dog Returns and so answers the question of why this band’s reunion CD wasn’t reunited with their original label Southern Lord. As far as this the band’s fourth release goes musically it’s filled with traditional heaviness, which should be obvious because of Griffin’s former history with PENTAGRAM and DEATH ROW, along with a dash of Southern Rock ala the opener “Timeless Hearts” as well as the title track. In case you didn’t know but Tim Tomaselli spent time with MOLLY HATCHET so some of that groove is going to leak in plus Victor Griffin can lean heavily into some blues rock soloing. Unfortunately all of this simply reminds me that I’m listening to Christian Metal. I have nothing against Griffin’s personal beliefs. I’m just not interested in those lyrical themes and musically there’s better releases out there.