I know we’ve discussed it before — we’re more than three years deep now on Wino Wednesday, there’s not a lot that hasn’t been covered at one point or another — but I really do think that Place of Skulls‘ 2003 sophomore outing, With Vision, is one of the best American doom records of the last decade. Even putting aside the novelty of the collaboration between Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Victor Griffin, whose band it was, it was the songs themselves, the nuances and differences and similarities of craft between the two legendary guitarists, that made it such a special release. Of course, the collaboration didn’t last, but even as a one-time thing with Wino in and out of the band, With Vision was an integral meeting of masters of the form and the results were every bit as stunning as their pedigrees would suggest.
They trade off lead vocals throughout the album, and it’s easy enough to read the shifts in approach to riffing as indicative of who wrote which song. “Long Lost Grave,” for example, has Wino on vocals, and it sounds pretty much like a Wino song, at least until the soloing at the end. Much of With Vision plays out like this, with one or the other at the fore, but the tradeoffs give the record a vibrancy that Place of Skulls‘ subsequent two albums, 2006’s The Black is Never Far and 2010’s As a Dog Returns (review here), couldn’t match with Griffin as the lone songwriter. That’s not to knock him as a songwriter — through Death Row, Pentagram, Place of Skulls and most recently In~Graved, he’s proved a landmark craftsman of traditional doom — but he can’t be two people. It’s just all the more reason With Vision is essential listening.
Of course, the Griffin and Wino collaboration was short-lived, and to date there hasn’t been any hint that they might at some point work together again. It’s probably more likely than a second Shrinebuilder record, less likely than cities on Mars. So be it. With Vision still stands up 11 years after its release, so dig into “Long Lost Grave” and have an excellent Wino Wednesday: