Place of Skulls

Nailed

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Not quite existing on the lunatic fringe like most of the Southern Lord catalog, Place of Skulls skulks somewhere between the desert rifferama of Kyuss and vaguely Southern, post-Black Sabbath drudge 'n' sludge. Its debut Nailed recalls the melodic doom of Trouble (especially with the vague, bleak Christian-themed lyrics) or scene buddies Goatsnake, the arrangements heavily armed with pig-iron guitar riffs and powerful, world-weary, clean vocals. Each song is solid and memorable, if not remarkable; opener "The Fall" emerges from a cave smeared with dank, minor-key melody and leaves a positive impression for plodding followers "Never Die," "Dead," and a depressive, impressive cover of The Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." Only "Feeling of Dread" kicks the tempo up to a full-blown headin'-down-the-highway Harley roar, bandanna flapping in the breeze, as ex-Pentagram singer/guitarist Victor Griffin's regular-guy garage moan spears through percussive, punky verse, chorus, and tricky changeup in the bridge. Look beyond Griffin's occasional lapse into Ozzy-style wails, and fans of the stoner genre will find plenty of cool, replenishing mud in which to wallow all the way through closing drill-press rocker "Song of Solomon." Nailed finds Place of Skulls smartly pacing itself through 40 minutes of impressive caveman-club bashing, the band deftly balancing songcraft and weighty muscle throughout. And with the lineup bolstered by ex-Obsessed/Spirit Caravan greaser-legend Wino following this album's release, the band might just be perched on the cusp of greatness.

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