The Victor Griffin Riffology

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Victor Griffin’s recording career spans almost 30 years, and it’s all worth hearing. For a quick introduction to the different stages of his career, here are some of the essential recordings and some others that stand out as curiosities.

Pentagram

Relentless (Pentagram, 1985/Peaceville, 1993)

Pentagram’s debut is actually two early demo recordings packaged together, but it’s an essential building block for American doom metal, capturing the band’s early primal energy. There are enough classic songs on here—“Death Row,” “All Your Sins,” “The Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “Run My Course,” “20 Buck Spin,” and the title track—that Relentless could serve as a greatest-hits album.

Place of Skulls

With Vision (Southern Lord, 2003)

Griffin teamed up with his old friend Scott “Wino” Weinrich (St. Vitus, the Obsessed, the Hidden Hand) on the second Place of Skulls album. It’s a great album, but Wino’s distinctive voice and guitar tone overshadow Griffin’s performance.

Victor Griffin

Late for an Early Grave (Outlaw Recordings, 2004)

These solo recordings Griffin made between 1988 and 1994 cover a lot of ground—classic-rock covers, along with some songs that later ended up on Pentagram or Place of Skulls albums, ranging in sound quality from demos to fully polished productions.

Place of Skulls

Love Through Blood (Outlaw Recordings, 2005)

This EP includes the four songs dropped from the band’s first album because Southern Lord honcho Greg Anderson deemed them “too Christian,” according to Griffin. It’s not hard to see why—one track is called “Blood of Jesus,” another is a cover of Christian alt-rockers Third Day’s “Consuming Fire”—but these early Skulls recordings are still pretty heavy.

Death Row

Alive in Death (Black Widow, 2009)

This two-disc archival collection catches Death Row between 1981 and ’83, before the band changed its name to Pentagram. The first disc is a live performance at Bundulee’s on Cumberland Avenue in 1982, one of the few shows the band ever played outside of the Washington, D.C., area; the second disc includes the first ever Death Row jam session in Griffin’s parents’ basement in Morristown and a 1983 demo. More interesting as a document of the band’s early days than as an album, but it’s still a gas.

Place of Skulls

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As a Dog Returns (Giddy Up! Records, 2010)

Griffin’s latest is also his most ambitious and expansive, turning away from the monolithic doom riffs to incorporate acoustic interludes, harmonica, and some arrangements that wouldn’t sound out of place on modern-rock radio.

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