Place of Skulls – As A Dog Returns   10 comments

Place Of Skulls, one of the legends of Doom Metal to doom fans everywhere and one of metal’s best-kept secrets to everybody else are back after 4 years with a the new album “As A Dog Returns”. The main man Victor Griffin is in my mind at least is one of the true masters of the heavy riff, such a iconic figure that he can put in the same category as Tony Iommi and fellow ex-Place Of Skulls guitarist Wino. He is maybe best known for his place in the history of doom for his work in the very iconic Pentagram, but with Place Of Skulls he pushed his place in Doom Metal history to even greater heights with classic, timeless albums such as “Nailed”, “With Vision” and “The Black Is Never Far” and that is where this review begins. “As A Dog Returns” in some ways continues where the last album finished off, expanding on the direction that album was heading both musically and maybe more importantly, lyrically, I will get to that in more detail later. This is without a doubt their most most creative and diverse album to date but its also noteworthy because drummer Tim Tomaselli and bass player and vocalist Lee Abney are back in the band and this is their first recording together since since Southern Lord put out “Nailed” in 2001.

So what about the music then, well you still have the patented Sabbath/Trouble/Pentagram influenced bluesy groove you would expect from a Place Of Skulls release but the addition of some Southern Rock balladry makes this the least metal album the band has done so far but its still good, just different from what you might have been used to. The balladry side of the band is over this album, “Though He Slay Me”,”Desperation” and “Psalm” are pretty much all power ballads while the Southern Rock influence is also a major part of the album as on “Timeless Hearts” which features harmonica solos and the title track with its acoustic sections. While there  isn’t as much of the heavy on “As A Dog Returns”, when it does take center-stage, it still shows Griffin at his masterful best however it seems to take a more traditional rock approach as oppose to his usual Doom Metal roots. What is also a bit different is there is more of a focus on his guitar solo’s and they are all sophisticated, tasteful and breath-taking musical treats to the ear.

The album is extremely well-rounded so picking favorite cuts is difficult but the almost 10 minute “Dayspring” would be a major highlight and “Breath of Life” isn’t far behind but now we get to the lyrics and this will be a issue for some listeners. Its no secret that Victor loves Jesus, “The Black Is Never Far” saw a big increase in the Christian lyrical element but this album is a 100% Christian Rock album and I have never like albums that focus on one lyrical subject. I must point out that I am a Christian myself and I have no problem with Christian Rock music, some of my favorite bands feature Christian lyrics so that is not the issue at all. The problem here is, its overkill to put it nicely so if praising Jesus is something that bugs you, this will make you feel very uneasy. Griffin has sung some of the best lyrics in Doom Metal over the years so why he is limiting himself to just one subject for a entire album is a bit disappointing from my opinion as a fan of Place Of Skulls. I think its great that Griffin wants to share his love for his Christian beliefs but it gets a little tedious after a few songs. This has always been a big part of Griffin writing though, not many people know that Nailed’s most Christian material was left off the Southern Lord release only to finally show up on the “Love Through Blood EP” so its nothing new but it will turn people off this new album and that is unfortunate.

Conclusion: This is a great rock album but not a great Place Of Skulls album, it needs to be judge on its own merits alone which I am doing here. Its lacking that extra dose of heaviness though and the lyrical perspective is very one-dimensional compared with other Place Of Skulls albums but that is a small issue for me. The album is classy, solid and creative, the musicianship is second to none as Griffin is in top form, Tomaselli delivers a stellar performance on the drums and the bass playing of Abney is spot on. Its just not the Place Of Skulls masterpiece I was hoping for and its going to disappoint some but I am sure will delight others. I had a hard time coming up with a rating for this album as its a album that you get the feeling will grow on you over time but for now, its my least favorite album from Griffin and POS. 7.5/10
Official site
Place of Skulls @ MySpace
Official Release Date – 11/09/2010 but apparently it has leaked on a Russian torrent site, how they do it is a mystery! Can I also state for the record that I didn’t download the torrent, I merely borrowed the downloaded CD from a friend to get this review done. I DO NOT support illegal downloading of any kind and I encouraged everyone to buy the real thing when released.

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Posted September 3, 2010 by doommantia in Place Of Skulls

10 responses to “Place of Skulls – As A Dog Returns

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  1. Hey Ed, I saw your little note after the review and you are right it has leaked. I found it using Isohunt but you have to hide your Ip address to make it work. How the Russians do it, I don't know but they seem to get stuff before anybody else. I agree with your assessment on the album too, its a little ordinary for POS and the lyrics, the less said about them the better.

  2. LoL, yeah I got that download too, I will buy the album when it comes out though. My thoughts on the album, great music but the lyrics suck as I hate love songs of any kind and ones about loving god are the worst.

  3. There you go, I had a feeling that the lyrics will piss people off. Its a bummer because this should have been the album to push Place Of Skulls to another level. I listen to it again this morning and its great but those lyrics get in the way. Even a co-worker who hates metal said, this sounds great but the words are lame.

  4. That torrent has been removed, I downloaded it and went to get it again for a buddy and its gone. To me its pretty ordinary, too many ballad kind of tracks but the playing of Griffin is killer as always, I just wish it was more like With Vision etc etc.

  5. I have to say I love POS but these lyrics are just too preachy, I know he is singing from the heart but please they are nauseating.

  6. I haven't heard the album but I have read many reviews for it and it seems to be getting really mixed reactions mostly due to 2 things, the lyrics and the lack of doom. I will still buy it but judging from what I have read, I am not getting my hopes too high for it. One review I just read said “don't buy it if you are looking for a doom album”.

  7. One more thing, on another forum I was just one someone else said it has leaked but I can't find a download for it anywhere. Can someone help me on this, I just want to hear it.

  8. If this was a review of say, “Psalm 9” the review would be much different. Yet all the lyrics in that album revolved around the one concept of Christianity….hmmm

    I see no reason to flack Victor Griffin in his lyrics. They are wonderfully sung and well put together. They fit with the music very well. He's not out to convert anyone, just expressing his feelings (isn't that what music is about?). How could they be limiting? This is ONE album out of what 4 (or 5 including the Love through blood ep)?? Don't bands do concept albums all the time? Even if this technically isn't one…it could easily be considered thus.

    Now with all that said…this album is great. It is a good progression in their sound for sure. The thing that really bothers me is the layout/artwork/typography. So would bring my rating to a 9/10. 😉

    and if someone is turned off by a certain branch of lyrics, they should reassess their “openness” to music. These complaints just remind me of the black metal idiots who complain about bands not being “grim” or “evil” enough.

  9. I hope I wasn't being too negative in this review, it wasn't my intention. I just have a hard time with love songs and one song on this album is basically a love song for Jesus – yuck ha ha. Seriously, I think this album is great but I knew it would get mixed reactions because of the lyrical content and look at the comments here, it proves I was right. I love POS and Victor is a legend, he is also a great lyric writer but the lyrics on this album seem a bit samey to me but musically it is very good.

  10. Debate is all in good fun Ed. 🙂

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