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Place of Skulls – As a Dog Returns: Review

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

On November 9, the doom-stoner metallers Place of Skulls came out with their latest album. It is their fourth full-length studio release and is entitled As a Dog Returns. Their previous album was released in 2006, so they have had some time with this one. However, given the amount of space between this release and its predecessor, I was slightly disappointed.

The Music (rating: B)

  1. The Maker
  2. Breath of Life
  3. Though He Slay Me
  4. Psalm
  5. Dayspring
  6. Timeless Hearts
  7. Desperation
  8. As a Dog Returns

The album gives off a very “stoner rock” vibe, albeit As a Dog Returns is quite dynamic. It is not overly heavy, but there is a fair deal of both hard-hitting riffing and mellow ballad-like passages. Not only is this true throughout the album, but it is also the case within songs. A single song can touch numerous spots on the heaviness spectrum. But when all is said and done, the whole “stoner” feel is consistently felt throughout every minute in the album.

As a Dog Returns is enjoyable with a few listens through. The aforementioned dynamism of the album is commendable for providing a level of depth and completeness to the music. And even more so, the record is able to keep a consistent tone alongside the ever-shifting heaviness of the music. But on the other hand, there seems to be some sort of roof over the tempo. Whether it is a band choice or a genre limitation, it can detract from the music; not by much, but it is a lingering feeling. Then again, the whole stoner-doom genre is known for its slow, draining pacing. And though the album does not stretch past a certain tempo, it is not restrained from its versatile nature.

Unfortunately, there are times in this release where the music is very slow. Not in terms of tempo, but slow regarding the lack of musical activity that is ongoing for duration of the section. Sometimes, it feels as though there is not much to listen to other than the basic instrumentals and overlying vocals. This is not a common occurrence, but it when it happens it is able to disinterest the listener. Overall, the instruments are able to provide good listening, particularly the capability of the guitar in various environments. The drums and bass take a more simple, supportive approach, though there is the occasional neat percussive element provided at times. On the vocal front, there is not much technicality involved. Fortunately, the fluency in phrasing helps give the singer a sense of appreciation. All the band members are able to give a decent performance, but they can slip at the odd time creating a minuscule but undesirable void.

To fans of the band or genre, As a Dog Returns is an album not to be passed. Its ability to be dynamic while staying true to the genre is remarkable. That being said, it is still a doom-stoner album. I personally found it too restricted within the confines of the genre. It is able to generate style quite well, but the instrumental execution was slightly underhanded in my opinion. From what I gather, most of what is to be enjoyed by this album comes not from the technical end but the stylistic portrayal. Because I am not all for any particular style, it does not mesh with me as well as it could. But for those who have come to love Place of Skulls or the doom-stoner metal genre, give this record a spin.

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