Saint Vitus - Saint Vitus (1984)Release ID: 1941
For their first three releases, Saint Vitus had the unique vocals of Scott Reagers to paint their melancholic and and times slightly deranged picture with. He has been in and out of the band over the years and currently resides front and centre again since 2015. Having originally assumed that Wino was an ever-present in the band it was slightly perturbing for me to find their debut and hear the throaty vocals of Reager fill the speakers instead. He is the dominating element that I take away with me from each visit to the record. This is in part because he is so unique and it did take a few attempts for me to get to grips with his style but also I think his vocals (whether consciously or otherwise) sit high in the mix and so are organically the most prominent feature. They are the perfect accompaniment to the sultry doom of Chandler's guitar riffs and melodies, adding a sense of dynamics to the otherwise wailing and low end atmospheres of tracks such as The Psychopath.
For an album that is in the doom drawer it is only thirty-five minutes long and has just five tracks. Playing more as a mini-LP, the self-titled debut for Saint Vitus sticks in my brain very easily to the point where I can play individual tracks in my head. This combination of a short run time, unique vocals and wonderfully simplistic structures makes this album a go to ahead of Born Too Late on most occasions if I am honest. In a deeply miserable way Saint Vitus is still one of the most accessible doom albums I have ever heard. The drums of the late Armando Acosta are like a really subtle version of Bill Ward that tip, tap and tish their way through the album but do also make their presence known when needed with runs and fills to keep things interesting. In the main though I think they do a great job letting the vocals and guitar do the heavy lifting. If anything Mark Adams' bass has more presence than them, playing as almost a rhythm guitar in places to accompany Chandler's psychedelic sonics and brooding riffs. Even on the energetic opener the drums keep great pace without becoming intrusive and the bass chugs along brilliantly showing real deftness for pacing.
I do not doubt that much of the production job on this record is deliberately geared towards suppressing the drums and emphasising the other component parts, but in fairness it really does work. The album feels cool in a dark and gloomy way - like a proper doom album should do from the 80s, slow and weighty but not necessarily thick in sound. I think it has a thinness overall that compliments what it sets out do really well. The lack of layers helps the album settle really quickly and if anything my only criticism is that I think it is too short and I sort of want it to go on for longer than it does.
Doom Metal (conventional)
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