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Place Of Skulls - "As A Dog Returns" (CD)

Place Of Skulls - "As A Dog Returns" CD cover image

"As A Dog Returns" track listing:

1. The Maker
2. Breath Of Life
3. Though He Slay Me
4. Psalm
5. Dayspring
6. Timeless Hearts
7. He's God
8. Desperation
9. As A Dog Returns

Reviewed by on November 1, 2010

"On the band's latest album, 'As A Dog Returns,' Place Of Skulls observes the Sabbath — in both senses of the word."

On the band's latest album, "As A Dog Returns," Place Of Skulls observes the Sabbath — in both senses of the word. Lyrics about faith, God and the search for peace are married to thunderous Iommi-inspired riffs to excellent effect.

Those who think that just because ex-Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin is singing about Christian themes, there's some kind of lack of heaviness will be surprised by just how little difference there is between this album, lyrically speaking, and some of those early Black Sabbath records. After all, despite what some would have you believe, weren't songs like "Black Sabbath," "Lord Of This World" and "War Pigs" actually warnings against embracing the ways of the devil? Wasn't "After Forever," in fact, a total embrace of Christianity — seeking solace in the turmoil of the world and being "prepared when you're lonely and scared at the end of our days" through faith in Christ?

The "After Forever" lyrical vibe is definitely on full display on "As A Dog Returns," with Griffin singing of the weakness of his flesh and the frailty of his soul on "Though He Slay Me." On "Psalm," the band marries "Planet Caravan"-style mellowness with lyrics about finding peace through God.

Griffin and bandmates Tim Tomaselli, on drums, and Lee Abney, on bass, pay every bit as much attention to the music as they do to the message, crafting riffs that sound as if they were born in the steel mills of Birmingham, England. For example, after "Psalm" is done being mellow, it transitions into a gargantuan riff that wouldn't be out of place on "Master Of Reality." "Timeless Hearts" brings in a haunting harmonica part, a la "The Wizard," with a guitar line that's a bit reminiscent of the Dio era of Sabbath, circa "Dehumanizer."

The album's biggest departure is its final track, "As A Dog Returns," which has a considerable Alice In Chains vibe in parts.

The album's sole bum track is "Desperation," which has a bit of a ballad feel to it, and never quite takes off. Griffin's bluesy solo helps a little bit, but the song just doesn't have the punch of tracks like "The Maker" or the creepy "Breath Of Life."

Place Of Skulls' "As A Dog Returns" marries skull-crushing riffs with appealing lyrics about the power of light against the darkness of the world. Black Sabbath fans — and anyone else with a taste for sludgy, mid-tempo metal — will find themselves in headbanger heaven.

Highs: Plenty of great tracks, with "The Maker," "Breath Of Life" and "Timeless Hearts" standing out.

Lows: The ballad-ish "Desperation" isn't terrible but never really takes off.

Bottom line: A superb dose of doom metal that marries dark riffs to lyrics on the power of the light.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)