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Saint Vitus - Live

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Artist: Saint Vitus

Album: Live

Label: Southern Lord

Review date: Aug. 4, 2005

Bad pun intended: St. Vitus was doomed from the start. Nudging songs that sounded like Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” on Special K out into a punk rock clime more acclimated to the up-tempos of Black Flag and hardcore outfits like Agnostic Front was as poorly meditated as a three-minute koan.

Contemplating one’s navel and counting breaths never really interested St. Vitus. It wasn’t Trouble or Pentagram’s stein of suds, either. So, the aforementioned did what they did: They fluffed up the fuzz guitars; anchored the bass; fed the drums Dramamine. Vocals were another thing; pace Trouble’s Eric Wagner and Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling; when Scott “Wino” Weinrich filled Vitus’ frontman duties for 1986’s Born Too Late (SST), his snarling baritone pulled Vitus from the gearhead’s tavern stage and placed them at the precipice of a sparsely populated anti-hairmetal front helmed by Great Britain’s Motorhead.

Yet, in many ways, Vitus surpassed Lemmy’s crew, even if they yielded to inevitable disintegration after 1995’s lackluster Die Healing (Hellhound). Weinrich, who had also been putting out records with monolithic metallers, The Obsessed, watched as bandmates Pinhas and Rogers gathered under the moniker Goatsnake, and onetime bassist Scott Reeder fell in line with D&D denizens, Kyuss. Weinrich sauntered on with Spirit Caravan; lent his axe to Tennessee’s Place of Skulls for 2003’s With Vision (Southern Lord), and then formed the overtly political Hidden Hand.

Vitus’ posthumous contribution to fringe metal has been undeniable. The bayou’s Eyehategod, Grief, and Pepper Keenan’s egregious version of Corrosion of Conformity aped Vitus’ slow and low approach. Sunn 0)))’s Greg Anderson took some cues from Vitus, too; their catalog is cited as an influence, and Weinrich’s equipment, namely Sunn’s Model T amps, introduced Anderson to some palpable Low seemingly without End.

Big fucking surprise that Anderson’s Southern Lord imprint tapped Vitus’ V, and now Live for reissue. Live, originally released by Hellhound in ’91, is a snapshot of the band at their apex, clawing through classic anthems of nihilism with beer soaked bravado. Weinrich’s voice pleads and prods, entwining itself with Dave Chandler’s buzzing tremolo and walloping wah. Armando Acosta’s flat fills crash like bumper cars into Mark Adams’ low- slung bass as Weinrich’s voice provides perfect compliment, soaring above the muddy din at slow intervals before diving into self-imposed laryngitis.

The fact that the disc concludes with an Acosta drum solo that segues into Chandler’s guitar quoting The Twilight Zone’s theme is only too salient; Vitus never shied from brandishing rock ‘n’ roll tropes. While other contenders were content with the sonic mope, Vitus strove for the fist pump; shit Angels’ old lady’s could shake their asses to; dirges that their old men could drain beers to. Realizing that this music was recorded nearly 20 years ago not only shows it as “timeless;” it also sadly informs one that no current “metal” band is capable of filling those Red Wing boots.

By Stewart Voegtlin

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