Records of the Week with Jon and Ted #8
Each Friday, Editors Ted Nubel and Jon Rosenthal will share their picks for Records of the Week — not necessarily what's out this week, just whatever's on our mind or on our record players.
Place of Skulls
The Black is Never Far
Any time a Victor Griffin riff kicks off with a downwards slide, you know you're about to lose some or all of your face. I would rank Griffin right up there with Tony Iommi in terms of riff-crafting abilities. Sure, he didn't kick off an entire genre and he's not quite as iconic, but when you look at the retro-oriented doom bands out there today, most of them are pulling from Griffin's riff style just as much, if not more than, Black Sabbath: chunky, rhythmic grooves embellished with pentatonic wizardry and dashes of dazzling harmonies. Frustratingly, only a few bands can really pull it off, so exploring Griffin's work outside Pentagram is a worthy avenue. Place of Skulls is certainly not his most-known project -- that being Pentagram -- but it packs those trademark skull-shattering riffs all the same. The lack of Bobby Liebling in this project keeps it from being as maniacally genius, but, then again, that clearly came with some downsides too. Like having Bobby Liebling involved -- have you folks seen Last Days Here?
The Black is Never Far is Place of Skulls' third full-length and probably the most well-rounded, so a good place to jump in and check it out. Likely the biggest downside is the heavy emphasis it places on Christianity in the lyrics, and it also switches away from riffs to more ballad-like material at times — both things that push it more towards rock than straight-up doom. I distinctly recall not connecting too well with this album when I first heard it, but as I've revisited it more recently the peaks and valleys in these songs come into focus as part of a larger, well-executed vision.
While Heaven Wept
Vast Oceans Lachrymose
I suppose this one might be a little more unexpected than usual since it isn't an obscure '90s pick or some black metal album, but that doesn't stop While Heaven Wept from being really, really good. I like to describe Vast Oceans Lachrymose as the slowest, saddest progressive power metal album you've ever heard. Mastermind Tom Phillips' grandiose, emotive songwriting with Rain Irving's absolutely massive voice is one of those perfect pairings in songwriting where twin pillars hold their sound aloft with might and grace.
Of course, While Heaven Wept was around for a long time before Vast Oceans Lachrymose, and it's definitely worth digging into their older, sadder, more doomed material (especially their debut, Sorrow of the Angels), but it's with Vast Oceans Lachrymose that this band entered a new era. Pristine, powerful, and one which elicits immense emotion, Vast Oceans Lachrymose is While Heaven Wept's finest hour. Now if only they'd play a show anywhere near where I live (when shows happen again).
Tonight, we will sail away...