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Doom Metal's Other Elder Statesman

Thanks in part to Dave Grohl's recent Probot metal project and Southern Lord Records, doom metal godfather Wino is finally receiving the attention he's due. His face appears on the cover of this month's Arthur and Terrorizer magazines--not to mention the MTV video. But there's another lost prodigy spoken of in hoary stoner circles whose musical legacy is even longer and more obscure: Place of Skulls' Victor Griffin.

Victor Griffin is remembered (when he is remembered) as the axeman for Pentagram, a melancholic American doom treasure that spawned only a few years after Black Sabbath. Though not an original member, Griffin recalls first hearing Pentagram "in 1979, when I met Joe Hasselvander. He was dating my sister and gave me a copy of the Pentagram 'High Voltage' single." The rest is downer rock history; a story that, unsurprisingly, involves several near-misses in the music industry, a lot of drugs, and enough faith and perseverance to still not have an ending.

Fast forward to 2003, when Griffin was joined in the studio by Wino himself, to collaborate on Place of Skulls' sophomore album With Vision. The dueling leads alone make this album one of a kind, a fusion of doom, blues, and classic metal thunder, but both men sing as well as Ozzy, and play guitar on par with Iommi.

In a world where underground music tends to stay that way, it's inspirational to see a living example of sustained musical integrity. Most rockers tend to make their mark--or not, eventually settling into family life or cover band obscurity. Griffin has maintained a positive attitude about playing such depressive riffage: "My original dream was to be a rock star in the vein of Alice Cooper, Sabbath, Steppenwolf, Uriah Heep... I hadn't yet realized the whole trip of playing heavy and dark music was going to be an underground thing. And I certainly didn't dream about sleeping on floors! But I'm glad to still be playing."

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