It’s always a bit of a treat to see bands that have been around for years keep churning out new material. Sometimes these bands can still make great records well into their second, third, and even fourth decade of operation. Avid readers of Heavy Blog will remember our love for Judas Priest and our acclaim for Firepower, their 18th record after 49 years as a band. It was a wonderful treat to hear Rob Halford’s soaring vocals still rise above the rest. However, Firepower is the rare record that sounds like that. Not everybody can keep things fun, fresh, and exciting after years in the business. Such is the case for Saint Vitus and their newest self-titled record.
Saint Vitus is one of those bands that’s always just kind of been around. Some might say they are a doom metal originator, which wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Formed in 1979, Saint Vitus is known as one of the original early doom bands along with Pentagram and Trouble in America. Unlike both Pentagram and Trouble, who have their own story, Saint Vitus never really broke through to the mainstream. They definitely helped establish this new sound in 1979 and into the early 80s. That was also the time of Saint Vitus’ heyday when they put out their first three albums: the original self-titled record, Hallow’s Victim, and the acclaimed Born Too Late. Since then, they’ve made middling to disappointing records. Some people love them but unfortunately not the big critics. Not that that should matter for your own listening ears, but it’s just a historic fact.
While you should really always decide for yourself about a band, album, or song, there’s really no getting around it for this second Saint Vitus. This record is boring. It doesn’t really grab your attention at all. The riffs aren’t particularly creative, mind-bending, or ear-catching. It honestly sounds like one of two things. First, it sounds as though Saint Vitus as a band hasn’t really progressed past their origins. If this record came out in 1982, I’m certain a track or two would make it to mainstream rock radio. The record would easily separate itself from the pack that, at the time, was tending to move faster and faster. Slowing down the music flies in the face of that, but unfortunately it’s 2019 and not the early 80s.
The other thing that comes to mind with this record is that it sounds more like a band jamming out on a demo tape instead of a major release. I see a lot of parallels with Metallica’s St. Anger. In post-release interviews of that record, producer Bob Rock claimed that St. Anger was never intended to be considered as a true Metallica album. After a number of years without a new album and several high-profile personal issues and strife within the band, Rock said he always viewed the album as a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be in a band with professional musicians. That seems a lot like Saint Vitus: the riffs are simplistic and sound more like seedlings of ideas as opposed to fully fleshed out tracks. It’s just not much fun to hear ideas of songs that could have been instead of these nine half-baked tracks.
There are a few moments on the record that are genuinely interesting. “City Park” is an interesting track that’s more akin to Tom Waits than doom metal though the track sounds like it ends halfway through only to replay the fade in introduction over again. Closing track “Useless” is more of a hardcore punk track with an angry political theme. But these are in the minority on this record. The rest of the record is simply phoned in and sounds more like they’re trying to fulfill a recording contract than they are creating gloomy art. The record simply ends up being a work that only a mother could love. Long time Vitus fans should spin it a few times just to enjoy a personal favorite band. Take a listen if you’re interested.
Saint Vitus is available May 17 via Season of Mist.