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After a hiatus of about two years, PLACE OF SKULLS return with their fourth studio album in 2010 and clearly demonstrate that it has been possible to trump the latest one 'The Black Is Never Far'. That is not to say that it was not a great album. In fact, it's quite the opposite. With 'The Black Is Never Far', PLACE OF SKULLS have proved that they have succeeded in extending their musical frame without losing their main characteristics or denying the roots. In consequence, Victor Griffin remains true to his vision, because each release differs from the previous one. The debut album 'Nailed' is closer to Victor Griffin's early recordings and evokes strong memories of Death Row and Pentagram. In contrast to this, 'With Vision' has a significantly greater 1970's heavy rock influence and was more positive than 'Nailed'. In 2003 Dennis Cornelius (Memory Driven, ex-Revelation, ex-Oversoul) joined PLACE OF SKULLS, and perhaps he has been an influence on the band because 'The Black Is Never Far' is obviously more progressive and complex than any other release in the ten year history of PLACE OF SKULLS.

For a short while, it appeared as if that was the farewell album. Dennis Cornelius returned to his hometown of Oklahoma City and Victor Griffin decided to go on hiatus. But when founding member Lee Abney (ex-Death Row) rejoined him and drummer Tim Tomaselli the ball really started rolling. 'As A Dog Returns' is the impressive result of the reunification of PLACE OF SKULLS' first lineup and, as has been said, possibly their best album although each one offers enough potential to become a classic. It also shows that PLACE OF SKULLS has long since established its own form of majestically performed heavy music, beyond the genre pigeon holes. Basically, PLACE OF SKULLS is the heaviest hardrock band on this planet and Victor Griffin's guitar sound is so massive, huge and extremely awe-inspiring that I'm at a loss for words. Perhaps we need new terms to describe a sonic phenomenon like this, but I don't know. 'As A Dog Returns' is an emotionally highly-charged album that consists of nine all-powerful tracks of epic proportions which can be seen as a logical, but perfected continuation of the chosen path with arrangements that are irreproachably crafted down to its minute details.

'Timeless Hearts' surprises with an additional blues harp before it kicks off with a strong and overwhelming mid-tempo groove. Victor Griffin makes the earth shudder from his extremely heavy riffs, and it will be nothing new for many of you that he's also a forceful and charismatic singer. Generally, 'As A Dog Returns' spreads a positive and conciliatory vibe, especially on 'Though He Slay Me' and the stunning title track. The straightforwardness behind the lyrics emphasizes the seriousness of this album and even the intense cover version of Steppenwolf's 'Desperation' fits perfectly with the concept. As with 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', PLACE OF SKULLS puts it stamp on another timeless rock classic and the additional hammond organ immediately ensures a 1970's feeling. There are a only a few tracks as 'The Maker' or 'Breath Of Life' that unfold a claustrophobic, menacing atmosphere. Yet soon afterwards the beautiful opening of 'Psalm' provides a very peaceful vibe reminiscent of 'Planet Caravan' from Black Sabbath, before Victor Griffin's unique guitar sound breaks the silence.

His masterful guitar work is flawless throughout and brings a lot more vitality to this album than you might expect. Tim Tomaselli's tight and precise drumming is perfectly accentuated by a monumental production while Lee Abney's pumping, dynamic basslines are responsible for the cohesion in the interplay between these forces. 'As A Dog Returns' is enormous and the lots of impressions must be digested but it's worth it. It is without doubt an outstanding album and a definite must-have for lovers of 1970's hardrock, doom metal aficionados and everyone else who's interested in intensivenly performed heavy music. I also believe that it marks the start of a new chapter in the history of PLACE OF SKULLS. Highly recommended!