Place Of Skulls The Black Is Never Far

After dissolving the band early last year, bandleader Victor Griffin decided there was still an album’s worth of metal left in Place of Skulls. His long history with doom godfathers Pentagram and Death Row makes The Black Is Never Far an obvious choice for classic doom fans, though Griffin imbibes the mix with more blues and Southern rock for a distinct shift in his solid songwriting. Opener "Prisoner’s Creed” and "We the Unrighteous” feature Griffin’s classic, mournful doom guitar and flawless vocals. The slower "Sense of Divinity” and "Apart From Me” seem more Wino/Obsessed-inspired, and "Darkest Hour” even rings of bassist Dennis Cornelius’ former bands Oversoul and Revelation. The studied acoustics of "Changed Heart” and the superior title track smack of country-tinged rock, as if Steve Earle were fronting the Allman Brothers Band. The urgently throbbing "Masters of Jest” sounds like old Sugartooth, and "Relentless” is a reworked Pentagram tune that holds true after two decades. The highlight is the deft "Lookin’ for a Reason”: a slow-burning, sax-spackled vibe with Griffin’s bluesy Hendrix soloing, like Rush’s "Here Again” with extra bombast. This album is another jewel in POS’s gleaming crown of doom, but no matter how commercial or spiritual Griffin may sound, he still flashes that Mephistopholean grin enough to know that the black is never too far from his heart. (Exile on Mainstream)