I have a ritual that I usually follow when I am hitting a record for review. I will listen to it in my car, with my big fun stereo with lots of bass and everything. This is where I listen loud. I commute about 1 1/2 hours a day so I can normally get two listens in. At work I have a discman with some decent headphones – the kind that cover the ear. This is where I hear all the nuances and very little escapes me. This is the real analytical listen, and with my job I have plenty of time to listen to things. Finally, at home in my little office thing I have a silly little Aiwa shelf system that I have jury rigged to my old Fisher speakers along with the crap that came with the stereo. This is background listening, mainly.
Place of Skulls’ With Vision is the kind of CD that sounds great in the car or on the shelf, but doesn’t stand up to the headphones. It’s sludge, or stoner, or anachrometal, whatever you want to call it. Think Sabbath, St. Vitus or the better Soundgarden records; funky riffs with fuzzed out guitars, played at or below classic rock speed. Nothin’ fancy but drumming and bass playing, and a singer with a mid ranged, toked up voice. Nothing even remotely innovative or provocative, but not at all bad, kind of like a warm old jacket on a cold day.
The music is really driving or playing music. It’s music to be heard out loud while you are somewhat enjoyably occupied. It’s not music for contemplation or dissection. And, obviously, if you are a druggie, it’s toking music. The production is just right for this kind of stuff, with lots of low end and texture. The drums and bass are loud but unobtrusive. The guitars are simple in riff, classic in solo, and the singer is not too loud or quiet.
As far as the musicianship, it’s really nothing out of the ordinary, either. But the band is tight and cohesive. Not that this is any kind of great feat, but it beats sloppy and disparate. The thing is the groove, the heft and the chunk. That’s all this is about, and as such it’s successful enough.
The problem is the lack of anything for the headphones. The little this-n-thats, the quirkiness and the emotional buildups that marked the best of the great anachrometal records, like Badmotorfinger, Born Too Late or whichever Sabbath Record you liked best. It’s all too ordinary and lacks any real personality. As such it doesn’t keep your interest very well.
Bottom line: This is a good record. There isn’t anything wrong with it, if you like slower, fuzzy Sabbathic styled metal. But it’s also nothing special. It’s white bread with butter. It rocks, certainly, but it doesn’t roll. If you like sludge I would recommend it, but if you need something more than just crushing funk, you won’t find it here. I will keep it around for the drive.