Place of Skulls
As a Dog Returns (Giddy Up!)
Former Pentagram guitarist-cum-Knoxvillian Victor Griffin returns with an arena-sized version of his latter-day power trio Place of Skulls, the first with founding lineup of drummer Tim Tomaselli and bassist Lee Abney in place since 2001's Nailed. It's arena-sized because the cavernous reverb and extra layers of rhythm guitar occasionally threaten to overwhelm these nine riff-approved doom-metal stalwarts.
Otherwise, Griffin is a capable genre songwriter, a powerful singer, and a killer axeman. His classic Les Paul-through-a-Marshall guitar tone alternately burns through eruptive solos, then comes down like a blunt instrument on the cyclopean riffs. Vocally, it sounds as if Griffin has been influenced by singer-guitarist Wino, with whom he collaborated on Place of Skulls' 2003 release With Vision; his bluesy rasp bears a passing aural resemblance to that of Wino's, yet with a more melodically pleasing bent.
The one thing that may bother some listeners is Place of Skulls' overtly Christian message. (Griffin had a religious conversion after leaving Pentagram.) It didn't bother me, for the simple fact that Griffin, a former so-called "secular" rocker," gets what so many of his fellow "message-first" religious rockers don't: No one will listen if no one wants to listen. If Griffin continues to play big riffs, sing, and solo with this kind of bluesy fervor, he can reel off the Brooklyn phone book in Swahili for all I care.