Doom, pretty much where it all started. I’m not just talking about Black Sabbath I’m talking about a whole host of Proto-Metal bands, Blue Cheer, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly these bands utilised the essence of mass distortion. This very facet would go on to become known as Metal and latterly as the genre developed further it would become more likened to Doom Metal, essentially Sabbath worship. At the end of the day if you don’t like Black Sabbath can you even call yourself a fan of Metal? That might be a harsh statement but I think it rings true and equally if you like Sabbath then you must like Doom Metal.
Doom has had its fair share of titanic forces over the years and one whom stand high above the crowd are the mighty Saint Vitus. Formed way back in 1981 the band enjoyed relative success with their first two records but when their third landed people paid attention. The 1986 epic Born Too Late is likely one of the greatest Doom albums of all time and given its apt title and subsequent titular track still remains very much relevant today. The band have split and reformed a number of times but their output has been consistent. In 2019 we see the return of original vocalist Scott Reagers, at least in the sense of a full length release. Following the 2012 album Lille: F-65 the bands new self-titled album perhaps represents a new era for Saint Vitus.
As the album opens with Remains we are drawn in with some pretty standard muddy Doom riffs that are pulled straight from the genre’s beginnings. Vocally the track equally appears traditional, strong and full of vigour. The depressive slog of downtrodden decimation follows through bleeding into the rest of the album. That said A Prelude To… seems oddly placed, this surely would have worked better as an introductory track as oppose to a continuation from the bombastic opener. Bloodshed comes to pick up the pace quite literally however with its early Metal influence and dare I say NWOBHM flare, it sets the album alight and prepares us for what is still to come.
As we move into the later portion of this release with Hour Glass the trundling Doom theme becomes somewhat commonplace. I’m certainly not one to quibble over this as it delivers us some well rounded Doom crushers full of memorability and starts to pander to that full album experience. City Park is an interesting deviation from the Doom themes though and comes about at just the right time a track that plays with an almost Drone even Ambient notion it appears a tad modernist amid the more back to basics approach from prior songs. Last Breath should be a strong climactic close with its powerful Doom heavy sludge and epic nature making it captivating in every sense. Yet it fall to the frantic Useless to close proceedings, a song which makes entrance more as a bonus track than a decent end.
To summarize I wouldn’t say that this release is without its negatives and after all nothing is perfect. There are a few issues for me in the order of songs which detract from the single entity experience of this release. There are times where this sort of encapsulating force waves over the listener but then there are moments when we are snapped back and hit in the face with the unexpected. For some this might work but for me I like a bit more structure. Musically however this self-titled album is very strong, most of the tracks carry a good amount of hooks and the whole album has a definite replay factor. Another commendation I must award this album with is its accessibility, whether you’re a seasoned fan or new to Vitus this is a marvellous listen.
(8/10 George Caley)