Sunday, November 5, 2017

Place Of Skulls - Nailed

Victor Griffin's work in Pentagram, along with iconic albums from Sabbath, Trouble, etc has become universally recognized as the iconic style of Traditional Doom, but fewer have ventured into his non-Pentagram repertoire. 2004's Late For An Early Grave was my first investigation into his other work. That led me to Place of Skulls. Nailed is the first output from this solo project. In my estimation, it's easy to understand that the known Christian, Griffin, would want a secondary outlet from Pentagram. Where Place Of Skulls truly differs from Pentagram is the hard-rock oriented pacing and riffing. The somberness and dour attitude is still present in almost all the songs and with Griffin also providing the vocals on the album, there's a sincerity and concern that accompanies the material. Ultimately, though, there is less of the chugging and attack one would find on throughout the Pentagram catalog. The album's insular lineup is rounded out with short lived Pentagram drummer Tim Tomaselli and Death Row's own Lee Abney.  

There's a host of new material here all of which is worthy but there are also remnants of older tracks that are recognizable. "Feeling of Dread," appearing on the aforementioned 2004 release, sounds great with the updated production that captures the thick signature guitar tone of Griffin. My favorite of the material, "Never Die" is a re-recording of "Pistonhead." It's a song which I can never play loud enough, and never sing forcefully enough. For me, it tops the greater majority of Pentagram material and is offered in pristine form. These two songs make up the totality of older material but what is evident is that Griffin's style has never shifted away from these earlier songs. Original tracks are similar in sound and composition and the flow throughout the record is very easy to follow.

As far as new songs here, "Dead" follows as my favorite of these. Truly distressing and solemn, Griffin presents the suicide-tinted verbiage expertly. As the lyrical content shifts towards a feeling of thankfulness for the end of life, the musical side of things becomes noticeably upbeat as well. Opening track "The Fall" is a solid opener and comes in close second for my pick from the album's own songs. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is a cover of The Animals. ",,," is the closest the album gets to Pentagram's heaviness musically and Griffin even sounds like Liebling slightly here. It's the shortest track on the nine-song Nailed. These tracks lack something subtle. While all powerful examples of Doom's marriage and reliance on Hard Rock for inspiration, I'm not entirely sure they capture the same soul which is found in "Never Die." "The Fall" and "Dead" do come close, though, to supplanting the verdict of the newer tracks don't live up to the older tracks.

Nailed is an album which can stand on it's own outside the context of Griffin's past. With sturdy doom and hard rock moments, this album would most likely appeal to those already familiar with Griffin and Pentagram, but coming across the album on it's own without being familiar with the better known groups isn't a bad thing as well. Nailed gives insight into Griffin as himself, outside the larger influence of Pentagram's status as Doom magnates. Place of Skulls, then, is really a much more personal look into Griffin and his natural riffing attack and songwriting habits, without the curtain of Pentagram hanging over everything. This makes it also an important album for Pentagram and Doom Metal fans in general that are trying to get better understanding into what makes Pentagram tick and Doom Metal tock.

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