The doom and gloom geezers are at it again with something I admittedly went into with a take it or leave it attitude. I came out feeling pretty refreshed but wanting…
With roots sprouting up in 1979 as members of the herd of bands cradling the glowing torch that is the often nasty, fuzzy, and personal favorite genre of mine – doom metal – Saint Vitus are here to eat your ass.
Vitus are heavily influential in the thumping crawlspaces of metal (having released 9 studio albums since their inception) where witches are burned, wizards are made of electricity, and lords of dope run about shitting goodness on the sunk-in chairs of pot heads and weary space travelers (perhaps those last two are interchangeable but who gives a fuck) alike. Running a Sabbath like flair, reminiscent of the Dio era, and a sound that has obvious influences stretching throughout modern metal; Spirit Adrift, Monolord, and Dopelord are 3 bands that come to mind that wear their influences a la the tinged tone and soaring vocals of early doom metal on their sleeves proud as fuck.
Saint Vitus kick off the new album with the tune “Remains”, which just happens to be one of the best on the album. Carrying a guitar tone that feels straight outta Iommi’s hands along with the 70’s, if the production had been cleaner. The riffs throughout the album are for the most part marvelous. They mesh as well as you’d typically expect of what’s been strutting their shit for about 50 years. “Remains” has a churning swagger about it as they Page their way through the great opener. Something to be said is the consistency is not entirely there for me in comparison to something like their 1986 album “Born Too Late”, which is about as solid as a doom album can get for that time period in all fairness. The 3rd has more of a galloping flex to it, most of which can be attributed to this bravado, but I find it rather meandering and soulless in comparison to some of the other tracks on the album. Having said that, the guitar work is fucking phenomenal in all the tracks. There are no let downs for me. Everything is precise, and it seems as if at least a majority of the notes are felt by the man behind the instrument. What I’m getting at is the passion is there still after 50 years, and they are still pumping out tasty jams (more that can be said for a few bands still going today from that time period) and this is a rare and respectable feat in the music industry. Doom, metal in general, along with punk and the many, many subgenres, are seen as a push against the norms, and they are constant reminders of the potential of human creativity and pure badass ‘we’ll fucking brood if we want to’ attitude.
With yet another lineup reformation – an enigmatic and decent frontman, and a new bassist with cuts that line up solid with some pretty well executed production. All this being said, only two tracks on this album really stood out to me. “Remains” sank in and was able to garner up a pretty damn hopeful outlook for the rest of the album. My favorite track “Last Breath” has ‘what is this that stands before me?’ written on the forehead of the beast itself.
The self titled album overall gives a vibe that they are on their last run and hanging up the old chaps may just prove a good call. The energy at times is fine, the cuts are okay, but the album feels unnecesarry. Various lineup changes and the reinduction of the original vocalist don’t drive their case forward for me personally as I found Mr. “Wino” to be a much stronger as a frontman. The standout of the album sits above the rest of the band, as Dave Chandler and his typically phenomenal riffing, are able to spark a sense of impending doom throughout his career that few others could match in the doom riffing department. I could pander to you about the rest of the tracks, but ultimately they were forgettable and this is us coming full circle back to the hanging of the chaps.
They’ve been better than this on almost every album, and this isn’t anywhere near top form. “Saint Vitus” provide a decent listen, but going through the motions just doesn’t cut it anymore. The competition is stiff in the doom department It’s flourishing. Flat and generic bouncing tunes that feel like someone wrote over a TV dinner while watching Wheel of Fortune on a CRT television crackling in the background. Give the whole record a spin if you feel it necessary and are an avid fan but the less than 20 minutes of standout material is my red flag to you. This isn’t quite the band you remember nor do I see them reaching the quality and potential that was flooding their veins in the mid-80s. Sadly, your time is better spent elsewhere listening to one of the many other superb doom bands flooding the market nowadays. Give Spirit Adrift a listen as this record feels like a bargain bin version of a former great band that has been left to settle in the dust.
Rating – 2.5/5
Reviewed by Brian Archibald