In the interest of full disclosure the recent (and seemingly never-ending) stream of Sabbath worshipping bands being lauded as the Next Big Thing is starting to bore me. So when a new album from one of the pioneers of the genre drops I tend to savour every note. No one really needs an introduction to Saint Vitus, save to say that tag-teaming of vocalists continues with Scott Reagers maintaining his position at the microphone after coming back in for Wino in 2015.
Saint Vitus fans have been somewhat starved of new music over the years; after a prolific start that saw the band release seven albums in eleven years, there was a seventeen year gap between Die Healing and 2012’s Lillie: F-65. Patience is obviously a virtue when listening to Saint Vitus as it has taken them a further seven years to release this new record and the second to bear the band’s name.
All the elements are there, as if there was any doubt there would be: the huge riffs from Dave Chandler all underpinned by rock solid foundation from rhythm section of Vasques and Bruders.
Saint Vitus 2019 starts familiarly enough; “Remains” contains the required amount of fuzzed-up guitar over pounding drums and steady bass, similarly for “12 Years in the Tomb” and “Wormhole”. Standard stoner fare, granted, but standing head and shoulders over most of the pretenders to the Sabbath crown. However, it is in the other tracks of Saint Vitus 2019 that the band demonstrated they aren’t here just to pay homage to Sabbath but to show they share the same DNA. What Saint Vitus do so well is to embrace all aspects of the genre invented by Black Sabbath; for every “Remains” there is a “A Prelude to”, an ambient track that sees Reager’s soulful vocal over a mellow guitar and a metronomic bass beat. Vitus also acknowledge Sabbath’s legacy didn’t just stop when Ozzy was fired: “Bloodshed” is a speedier riff with a Dio-esque vocal line that could have come from Mob Rules; “Hour Glass” has something of the Tony Martin-era about it.
The closing three tracks take the album off into unfamiliar territory: “City Park” is another ambient track with Reagers coming across of a deranged Jim Morrison, delivery poetry to the croaking of insects in the night. “Last Breath” smashes in with the biggest riff on the album and “Useless” closes out in with a near-Grindcore ninety-two seconds.
This is in no way an album which tries to ape Black Sabbath. This is not a tribute record, rather it utilises their influence and allows Saint Vitus to deliver an album that puts much of the new breed to shame.
*Photo (c) Jessy Lotti