There can be little doubt that one of the doom bands with the greatest mystique and legend surrounding them are Saint Vitus, and after the recording hiatus of 17 years after ‘Die Healing’, their 2012 return with ‘Lillie: F-65’ was one of the most anticipated releases of the metal year, and unlike some bands their return to the studio was far from a damp squib, but rather a triumph. Four years, and a whole bunch of tours later, some with a pre-bust Wino, and some with original vocalist Scott Reagers, and a follow up is wanted by many of the fans. To help bridge the gap, Season of Mist have released ‘Live Vol.2’, the spiritual successor of 1990’s ‘Live’, featuring the line up of Wino, Chandler, Adams, and new sticks-man Henry Vasquez, recorded back in 2013 on the tour that promoted the then new release.
From the off it is obvious the band are not a parody of their former selves as some reformed dinosaurs are, rather they are a devastating live force. Classic track ‘War Is Our Destiny’ opens the album, and it seems imbued with more fire than the original, or even the version captured on the first ‘Live’ album, Wino seeming to have spent the intervening decades honing his anger, whilst Dave Chandler’s solo blazes out, the whole sound being driven forward by the faster, rockier seeming beats of Vasquez who has so recently stepped into fill the gap left by the loss of Armando Acosta. ‘Look Behind You’ follows surprisingly hard and fast for a band renowned for their sludgy delivery, and it is obvious why they were one of the few metal bands that were able to play alongside punk acts and be accepted by their spike haired fans back in the day, their anger against the world around them being a contrast to the motorbikes, dungeons, dragons, and sexual conquests that were the staple of the lyrical content of so many of their contemporaries. For the worshippers of all things slow and low, ‘Let Them Fall’ follows, the opening track from ‘Lillie: F-65’, Dave Chandler practically dragging an entire solo from a single pluck of the guitar, the strings being bent, distorted, and shaken into a banshee’s howl. Then new tracks merge seamlessly with classics, ‘The Bleeding Ground’ easily matching ‘The Troll’ or ‘Patra (Petra)’ for impact, the band refusing to try and adopt new trends or styles to please a modern audience, relying instead on plain and simple quality rather than fashionable tricks to deliver their message.
I’ve been lucky enough to catch Saint Vitus live a whole bunch of times over the years, mainly with Wino fronting them, and listening to the album it was so easy to just close my eyes, lean back, and imagine the show. Saint Vitus do not rely on stage sets and pyros to capture the attention of their audience, and with a simple stare and clench of the fist Wino can capture the attention of a crowd with more immediacy than the antics of any number of make up coated, spike covered, fire and blood spitting costumed performers, all the while Dave Chandler looking like a homeless man who has had a magical flying V thrust into his hands that comes with a life of its own, Mark Adams being motionless and apparently asleep whilst his bass bellows forth a tectonic rumbling with Henry Vasquez battering out massive beats from a surprisingly minimalist drum kit. ‘Live Vol. 2’ does as good a job at capturing that feeling as any live album can, and as Wino himself says as he addresses the lucky crowd, “Passion, that’s what it’s all about.”
Various versions of the album are due to be released, including a triple disc for vinyl junkies, including a 1984 recording ‘Marbles In The Moshpit’ featuring the original line up that some folks, ahem, might have as a bootleg, not that I’m advocating such a thing of course. Let’s all hope that this is just something to fill the time before Saint Vitus next return to the studio, as on the evidence of this album, there is more than enough power, ire, and skill in the band to release a new album that will be as relevant and angry as ever they were.