Victor Griffin
Victor Griffin.jpg
Griffin performing live with Pentagram.
Background information
Birth Name Victor Griffin
Born 28 November 1961, Morristown, Tennessee, USA
Occupation Musician, Race Car Driver, BMX Rider
Genres Doom Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Christian Rock
Instrument(s) Guitar, Vocals
Years active 1978 - 1996, 2000 - Present
Labels Southern Lord Records, Black Widow Records, Peaceville, Svart, Metal Blade, Napalm
Associated acts Place of Skulls, Death Row, Pentagram, Joe Hasselvander, Cathedral, In-Graved, David Benson, DoomDogs, Pistonhead, Death Row Assembly

Victor Griffin is a guitarist based out of Tennessee. In a career spanning over forty years Griffin is best known for his tenures in Pentagram, Death Row and Place of Skulls among other acts. His playing has made him a pioneer in the developing doom metal genre, also notable for inventing "Drop B Tuning".[1] Along with his guitar playing he's also known for his songwriting, having contributed heavily to Pentagram in his time with the band and his writing inspired by life and Christianity, a faith he would follow in the late 1990s.

To date Griffin has performed on a dozen albums, including four with his own band Place of Skulls and five with Pentagram.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Projects and Death Row[edit | edit source]

  • For further details on Death Row, feel free to view their Riffipedia page here.

Griffin grew up in Tennessee. Early on in his life his father partied with country musicians frequently in Griffin's youth. Griffin received his first guitar in 1969 from a friend of his father as a promise to learn to play guitar. This same individual was shot and killed the same night he gave Griffin a guitar. In 1978 Griffin would form his first band Wizzard while still in high school and upon experimenting with various tunings (Including downtuning in the same vein as Tony Iommi.) and would discover "Drop B".

Griffin would meet Lee Abney in 1979 which would lead to the formation of Death Row once Griffin moved to northern Virginia area.[2] The initial lineup of Death Row featured the lineup of Griffin, Abney, David Lafever and Chris Durman, whom only performed live once under the name "Overkill".[3] Not long after he'd also meet Joe Hasselvander, who was dating one of Griffin's sisters at the time. In regards of looking for a single Hasselvander would suggest Bobby Liebling of Pentagram. Initially Griffin was reluctant to bring him in but would have him join in 1981, along with bassist Martin Swaney. Once enough songs were rehearsed, along with playing shows in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., the band released a demo entitled All Your Sins in 1982 to which it got serious buzz among tape trading circles. Hasselvander would leave the band in 1983 with Stuart Rose replacing him. The band would get approached by Dutch East India Trading for a record deal, wanting to release the demo as the first album. By 1983 the band would essentially morph into Pentagram.

Death Row would perform a handful of reunion shows from 2000 - 2001 with the lineup of Griffin, Hasselvander, Liebling and Abney. A portion of one of these shows was documented as Death Row Reunion 2000. Also in 2000 a vinyl featuring a host of rough live and demo recordings entitled Death Is Alive: 1981 - 1985 saw release. Griffin gave his approval for the LP compilation but was mostly disinterested in the project at the time.

Death Row would reunite again in 2009 with the lineup of Griffin, Swaney and Hasselvander. This time Griffin would handle vocals as Liebling had re-formed Pentagram with a new lineup and at the time Hasselvander had no interest in working with him.[4] Death Row would make their first ever live appearance in Europe at Hammer of Doom Festival in Germany. However Griffin's voice wasn't up to snuff so the band hired Eric Wagner to perform vocals for this show. A 2CD archival compilation entitled Alive in Death was also released in 2009 via Black Widow Records. Nearly three decades after the band had formed, Death Row would tour for the first time. This would would take them through Europe with Church of Misery which included a marquee appearance at Roadburn Festival. Death Row also briefly toured in 2011 though in the United States.

In 2019 Griffin would form a new project named Death Row Assembly, with their first performance intended for the 2020 edition of The Maryland Doom Fest.

Pentagram[edit | edit source]

  • For further details on Pentagram, feel free to view their Riffipedia page here.

After recording All Your Sins, Bobby would try to coerce Griffin into changing the name to Pentagram and the demo would be remixed and slightly re-recorded, released as an eponymous debut album in 1985. Two years later the band would follow up with a second album in Day of Reckoning, with Rose and Hasselvander on drums (Latter versions featuring re-recorded drums by Hasselvander). However with a lack of touring, label support and direction among other frustrations Griffin would leave the band in 1988.

Griffin began pursuing other projects around the time and reconnected with someone he met in New York in Peter Steele (Carnivore, Type O Negative). At the time Steele was in Carnivore which led to Griffin briefly being involved with the band, though only for a few months and largely rehearsals. In 1989 Griffin would be invited by a friend to move to Los Angeles, California which led to a new project in Pistonhead (Which at one point featured (Wino.), whom only recorded demos between 1990 - 1993. However Griffin's lifestyle would drift away from music and focus more on auto racing and motorcycles, along with the California scene.[5]

Around 1993 Griffin would move back east to get away from the drug lifestyle of California and re-locate to Woodbridge, Virginia. Griffin would re-connect with Liebling, Hasselvander and Swaney, leading to Pentagram re-forming. The band would record a new album in January 1994, leading to the release of Be Forewarned that April. The band would perform with the likes of Iron Man, Unorthodox and Cathedral among other bands.

Griffin, along with Hasselvander and Scott Carlson (Repulsion, Death, etc.) would join Cathedral for a tour of Europe in the Spring of 1994, supporting Godspeed and Black Sabbath. However Griffin had been dealing with alcohol and drug issues, which led to him being on a tour bus with twelve other individuals and having conflicts with the bands, often escalating to violence. Towards the end of the tour in Budapest, Hungary and following a conflict with Gaz Jennings and Lee Dorrian, was let go the next day.[6] A live recording of this lineup performing "A Funeral Request" would appear on the 2004 compilation The Serpent's Gold. Griffin would stay active with Pentagram up until 1996 when he would leave the group due when the band got stagnant.

Griffin would rejoin Pentagram in 2010 when he got word of a March 2010 tour and offered to help out when the band needed a guitarist that May and June. The return of Victor Griffin in essence saved the band at the time and was positively received. Notably Griffin made two conditions to return to the band: That Liebling was legitimately sober as he claimed at the time and that he would drop the satanic imagery, including a pentagram he had worn around his neck for years to which Liebling complied.[7] Following touring Griffin had officially re-joined while also juggling work with Place of Skulls and Death Row. Griffin, Liebling, Turley and Tim Tomaselli would record a new album in what would be Griffin's first album with the band in nearly 20 years. Last Rites would see release on 12 April 2011 to positive reception, leading to touring the United States and Europe in 2011 and 2012. Griffin would leave the band amicably at the end of 2012, with a student of his in Matthew Goldsborough (Carousel, The Great Unknown) take over guitar duties through 2013 - 2015.

Griffin would re-join again in early 2015 to record a seventh album with the band. Curious Volume saw release via Peaceville Records on 21 August 2015 to further critical acclaim. Griffin would remain active with Pentagram and notably take over on vocals in 2017 when Liebling was unable to perform. When Pentagram re-grouped in 2019, Goldsborough would return along with Campbell and Turley while Griffin would concentrate on new projects.

Place of Skulls and Other Projects[edit | edit source]

  • For further details on Place of Skulls feel free to visit their Riffipedia page here.

Griffin would be inactive from performing for a few years, dealing with drug and alcohol issues along with losing his uncle, father, grandmother, and mother-in-law in the span of a year. Following a culmination of issues Griffin would choose to find God and embrace Christianity, also managing to finding sobriety in the process. In 1999 he would re-locate to Tennessee.[8] In an interview with Indie Division Music Griffin would explain how he connected with religion:

"To summarize it, it was basically the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle from the late 70’s up until ’97. I had heard the Gospel when I was seven or eight years old. Even at that age I knew that what I was hearing was the truth. That stuck with me, even though I ran from that truth for all those years. You know, I’ve always written songs about death, the other side, the dark side…Through a series of family deaths around ’97… I had like four relatives, including my dad die within a year and it became pretty clear to me that it was time to make a decision. I think as we harden our hearts, as we get older, we tend to put that off. I believe that we can get to a place where your’e not convicted anymore and, like the Bible says, you can die in your sins.

I’m not sure how close I was to that. But around ’97 I decided it was now or never. I was tired of running. I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. From that point on, I kinda got out of music for a few years and didn’t do anything. Obviously that meant quitting Pentagram, which I was on the way out of that at that point too, because that was always a fractured mirror waiting to fall to the ground in one sense or another. Once I started to figure out what God’s will may possibly be for me, that’s when I put together Place of Skulls. I did that for the past twelve years or so. It’s all built up until now.

I got away from God for a while around 2006 and had a series of dark times. Things happened and God showed me, “Hey, you’re pretty far away from me,” and He sort of jerked the rug out from under me. I’ve learned a lot since then. He’s shown me a lot and it’s really gotten me way closer to Him than I probably could have been. So, I think that He definitely did use my iniquity to teach me a lot of things I may not have learned otherwise, being so hard headed."

— Victor Griffin, Indie Division Music[9]

Griffin and Abney would re-connect and after finding a drummer in Tom Tomaselli, would form Place of Skulls in 2000. After a series of shows in the United States the band would record several songs for a debut album. Initially the band had signed to Man's Ruin Records with intents to release this album in September 2001 but the label folded before it could be released. Guy Pinhas, a friend of the band, would shop the album out to various labels to which Southern Lord Records would sign the band.[10]

Nailed saw release on 18 September 2001 to positive reception, along with the band touring the United States that Fall. The next year saw them touring with Spirit Caravan in what was known as the Caravan of Skulls tour. Lee Abney would leave the group due to personal reasons which would lead Ron Holzner and later Greg Turley to join. Notably Wino would also join the band for these recording sessions, leading to the release of With Vision on 23 September 2003 to critical acclaim. However due to religious conflicts among living in separate cities Wino would leave the band to concentrate on The Hidden Hand. Place of Skulls would tour North America extensively through 2004 in support of With Vision, closing out with their first tour of Europe. The next year also saw release of a Victor Griffin solo album in Late For An Early Grave via Outlaw Recordings.

Place of Skulls would attain a new bassist in Don Cornelius and would sign to Exile on Mainstream, recording with Travis Wyrick. The Black Is Never Far saw release on 1 May 2006 to positive reception, followed by a tour of Europe with End of Level Boss. Lee Abney would return to the band in 2007 as the band would eventually begin work on a follow-up, leading to the release of As A Dog Returns via Giddy Up! Records and Volcom Entertainment on 9 November 2010. This would lead to a tour of Europe the next year alongside The Gates of Slumber, including a marquee appearance at Roadburn Festival.

In 2012 Griffin, along with Jeff "Oly" Olson (Trouble, The Skull), Guy Pinhas (The Obsessed, Goatsnake, etc.) and Pete Campbell (Sixty Watt Shaman), would form a new project known as Victor Griffin's In-Graved. This lineup, along with several guests, would release In-Graved via Svart Records on 22 March 2013.[11] In-Graved would tour Europe in 2013. Place of Skulls would perform sporadically after that as Griffin would be largely busy with Pentagram.

On 17 June 2016 Stone Groove Records would compose digital re-issues of every Place of Skulls album, including re-branding "In-Graved" as a Place of Skulls album. Place of Skulls would return to Europe that year. Place of Skulls would largely keep active in the Tennessee area barring the occasional festival appearance such as The Maryland Doom Fest.

In 2019 Griffin would re-form Pistonhead as a means to perform the songs he had written in the early 1990s, with Lee Abney and Andrew Bryant. The band would play live for the first time (Alongside Royal Thunder and Hot Ram) at 529 in Atlanta Georgia on 23 August 2019.[12]

Personal Life[edit | edit source]

Griffin grew up in Morristown, Tennessee with three siblings. Notably Greg Turley is also his nephew. Griffin would meet Anne Forrest in Los Angeles circa 1988, whom he would later marry in 1997.[13]

Outside of music Griffin also participates in motorsports, specifically having stints as a professional racecar driver and semi-pro BMX rider. Along with these activities he has a passion for motorcycles and owns a custom motorcycle shop in Knoxville, Tennessee.[14]

Bands[edit | edit source]

  • Wizzard - Guitar (1978 - 1979)
  • Death Row - Guitar, Vocals (1979 - 1983, 2000 - 2001, 2009 - 2011)
  • Pentagram - Guitar, Vocals (1983 - 1988, 1993 - 1996, 2010 - 2012, 2014 - 2017)
  • Carnivore - Guitar (1988)
  • Pistonhead - Guitar, Vocals (1990 - 1993, 2019 - Present)
  • Cathedral - Live Guitar (1994)
  • Place of Skulls - Guitar, Vocals (2000 - Present)
  • In-Graved - Guitar, Vocals (2012 - 2014)
  • Death Row Assembly - Guitar, Vocals (2019 - Present)

Selected Discography[edit | edit source]

With Death Row[edit | edit source]

With Pentagram[edit | edit source]

With Place of Skulls[edit | edit source]

Other Releases[edit | edit source]

  • Pistonhead - Demo (1993?, Self-Released)
  • Joe Hasselvander - Road Kill (Studio Album; Guitar, Bass, Vocals on B3 & B4) (2000, Bas Posture)
  • Victor Griffin - Late For An Early Grave (Studio Album) (2004, Outlaw Recordings)
  • Cathedral - The Serpent's Gold (Compilation; Guitar on 2-6) (2004, Earache)
  • Doomdogs ‎– Unleash The Truth (Studio Album; Guitar on 13) (2011, Doomentia)
  • In-Graved - Victor Griffin's In-Graved (Studio Album) (2013, Svart)
  • David Benson - Evil Killer (Studio Album) (2013, Self-Released)

Gear[edit | edit source]

Guitars[edit | edit source]

  • 1984 Gibson Les Paul Studio Standard
  • 1987 Gibson Les Paul Standard
  • 1991 Gibson Les Paul Standard
  • 1994 Gibson Les Paul Standard

Amps[edit | edit source]

  • Laney Tony Iommi Signature TI100
  • Laney GH100L Heads (Modded by Voodoo Amps)
  • Laney GH100TI Tony Iommi Signature Heads (Modded by Voodoo Amps)
  • Fender Showman 412S Cabinets

Effects[edit | edit source]

  • Carl Martin Boost Kick
  • Way Huge Angry Troll Boost
  • Budda Budwah
  • Dunlop Q-Z1 Cry Baby Q-Zone Fixed Wah
  • Mooer Ana Echo Delay
  • TC Electronics Flashback Delay
  • American Loopers 8-channel Programmable Looper
  • Electro-Harmonix Nano Clone Chorus
  • Ernie Ball Volume Pedal
  • Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2
  • Voodoo Lab 4-Channel Amp Selector
  • Korg Pitchblack Tuner

Misc.[edit | edit source]

  • D’Addario EXL125 Strings (.009-.046)
  • Planet Waves American Stage cables
  • InTune heavy picks

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. /
  2. My Global Mind
  3. Cosmic Lava
  4. Cosmic Lava
  5. / Hand of Doom E-Zine
  6. Everyone Loves GuitarVictor Griffin Interview – Pentagram, Place of Skulls – Everyone Loves Guitar (42:00 mark), accessed 20 April 2020
  7. Decibel Magazine No. 79, May 2011; Pg. 67
  8. / Hand of Doom E-Zine via Wayback Machine
  9. Indie Division Music Victor Griffin and Jeff “Oly” Olson (In-Graved), accessed 20 April 2020
  10. / Hand of Doom E-Zine via Wayback Machine
  11. Indie Division Music
  12. Creative Loafing
  13. Everyone Loves GuitarVictor Griffin Interview – Pentagram, Place of Skulls – Everyone Loves Guitar (31:00 mark), accessed 20 April 2020
  14. Premier Guitar
V·T·E Pentagram
Current Members Bobby LieblingGreg TurleyMatt Goldsborough
Past Members Vincent McAllisterGreg MayneGeof O'Keefe • Steve Martin • John Jennings • Randy Palmer • Marty Iverson • Rick Marinari • John Ossea • Joe HasselvanderVictor GriffinMartin Swaney • Richard Kueht • Paul Trowbridge • Vance Bockis • Stuart Rose • Ted Feldman • Jon Cook • Gary Isom • Ned Meloni • Greg Reeder • Dale Russell • Walter White • Kelly CarmichaelAdam HeinzmannMike SmailKayt Vigil • Mark Ammen • Russ Strahan • Johnny "Wretched" Koutsioukis • Albert Born • Tim Tomaselli • Sean Saley • Pete Campbell
Studio Albums Relentless (1985) • Day of Reckoning (1987) • Be Forewarned (1994) • Review Your Choices (1999) • Sub-Basement (2001) • Show Em' How (2004) • Last Rites (2011) • Curious Volume (2015)
Compilations Human Hurricane (1998) • First Daze Here: The Vintage Collection (2002) • First Daze Here Too (2006)
Live Albums & Videos A Keg Full of Dynamite (2003) • Live Rites (2011) • When The Screams Come (2011) • Last Days Here (2011) • All Your Sins (2015) • Show Em' How (2004) • Last Rites (2011) • Curious Volume (2015)
Death Row Death Is Alive: 1981 - 1985 (2000) • Death Row Reunion 2000 (2001) • Alive In Death (2009)
Bedemon Child of Darkness (2005) • Symphony of Shadows (2012)
Associated Bands and Artists Death RowPlace of SkullsInternal VoidBlue CheerBedemonUnorthodoxWretchedThe Skull
V·T·E Place of Skulls
Current Members Victor GriffinLee AbneyTim Tomaselli
Past Members Ron HolznerGreg TurleyScott Weinrich • Dennis Cornelius • Pete Campbell • Dan Lively • Russell Lee Padgett
Studio Albums NailedWith VisionThe Black Is Never FarAs A Dog Returns
Other Releases Place of Skulls Live!Death Row Reunion 2000Love Through Blood
Associated Bands, Artists, Etc. Death RowPentagramThe ObsessedTroubleRevelationCathedralLate For An Early GraveVictor Griffin's In-Graved


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