I can't really put my finger on why, but for some reason PLACE OF SKULLS never did much for me. Sure, they're stalwarts of the Old School of Doom and they've got that whole "fronted by Victor Griffin from PENTAGRAM" thing going for them, but they never really impressed me where it counts: the music. It was far from bad, but there was just more interesting Doom just waiting to be listened to.
Not anymore. If anything can be described as pure Doom Metal bliss, it's this. "The Black Is Never Far," the third full-length crusher from Griffin's PLACE OF SKULLS is a contemporary Doom Metal classic that will most definitely win the band a whole legion of fans, as well as secure them even further in the hearts of established listeners. Even after all of these years, Victor Griffin still has it. Not only has he made a great record here, but he has made one of the best of his career. That's saying a lot.
Honestly, "The Black Is Never Far" is not really all that Doomy. The songs are very often rather short and mid-tempo and there is much use of acoustic guitar as well as Bluesy passages. "We The Unrighteous" features Punkish gang vocals and what might be the highlight of the package, "Lookin' For A Reason," not only finds the band dabbling in Jazzy sounds, but also sees the inclusion of a saxophone. It's all used to awesome effect and that's not even to mention the mindblowing extended solo that comes in at the end of the track. Every single song here, from classic Doom-sounding offerings such as "Sense Of Divinity" to the PENTAGRAM cover "Relentless" to the soft and introspective closer "Change Of Heart," is worth the price of admission. "The Black Is Never Far" simply has no weak spots.
Speaking of "Change Of Heart," I should probably mention that it boasts some overtly Christian lyrics. The entire album is actually rather positive lyrically, with Victor speaking of overcoming personal strife and social injustice. His vocals are impassioned to a point that is rarely heard in music there days and you can tell that every single word means something to this man.
PLACE OF SKULLS have done the impossible and made an album that is both firmly rooted in Traditional Doom Metal and forward thinking at the same time. "The Black Is Never Far" has a perfect balance of expected Doom aesthetics and new ground, making it required listening for anyone who wants to know what's what. A modern milestone! (Online May 24, 2006)