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Saint Vitus

Saint Vitus

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Album Review

Although they never achieved wide acclaim, Californian doom metallers Saint Vitus still managed to carve out a niche in people's scrapbooks for one big reason: they sounded uncannily like Black Sabbath, a propensity aided by an increasingly farcical series of ever-changing lineups that left the latter band essentially faceless. Not surprisingly, SST Records signed them as Black Flag's label began distancing itself from its hardcore punk roots. This album, then, should send old-schoolers' hearts' aflutter. The trademarks that defined classic '70s-era Sabbath albums like War Pigs and Iron Man are proudly present and correct: jangly, piledriving guitars; stuttering basslines; and insistent, cymbal-soaked drumming. True to form, the album boasts just five tracks; the brisk opening tribute to the medieval-era saint is probably the most energetic among the lot. The band's themes are somewhat predictable, ranging from occult matters ("Black Magic, White Magic," "Zombie Hunger") to personal peril ("Burial at Sea"). However, the band convincingly shows that intensity doesn't necessarily stem from tempo on "Psychopath" and "Burial at Sea"; guitarist Dave Chandler lays down some menacing licks, while hollow-voiced singer Scott Reagers evokes just the right touch of despair and desperation. While Saint Vitus never broke beyond a cult circle of admirers — except overseas — the band shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. (Only Trouble had a similar impact, except from the Christian metal side — to where wags jokingly tagged them as "White Sabbath.") Genre exercises like this are naturally an acquired taste, but the band plays with fire and conviction; if Black Sabbath's singer-of-the-week lineups left you cold, these guys provided just the right placebo.

Biography

Formed: Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s

One of the leading American doom metal acts of the '80s (along with Trouble and the Obsessed), Saint Vitus was cursed with public indifference throughout their decade-plus career, which both started and ended in frustrating obscurity. Originally formed as Tyrant in 1979 by vocalist Scott Reagers, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams, and drummer Armando Acosta, Los Angeles' Saint Vitus was named after a medieval boy saint whose beheading and violent death-throes gave rise to the gruesome expression...
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