Legendary Saint Vitus prove they’re true doom royalty with awesome ‘Lillie: F-65’

Everyone’s making a big fuss over this Black Sabbath reunion, and forthcoming album, and all the drama. Will Bill Ward be the drummer or will he not? Will the band actually be able to make good, relevant music in 2012? Will Tony Iommi be able to topple cancer and remain healthy for the band’s upcoming activities?

Other than the Iommi question — we obviously hope for the best for Tony and want to see him make a full, speedy recovery — who gives a shit anymore about this? There’s been so much back and forth between Ward and the band, so much silliness, and having back one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time has become something of an annoyance. Never thought I’d say that about the great and mighty Sabbath, but for me, I’m no longer interested because I can just feel what a mess this could turn out to be. I hope I’m wrong. Plus, there’s another legendary doom metal band back together and blowing shit apart, and my guess is their new album will pulverize anything Sabbath tries to commit to record or CD or tape or whatever.

All hail Saint Vitus, one of the most important and influential doom bands this side of Sabbath, one that heavily moved some of the modern era’s most powerful drone acts such as Sunn 0))) and Boris (earlier stuff, obviously), and that is revered in so many circles that they’re practically metallic clergymen. While Saint Vitus weren’t quite as revered in their early years — they formed in 1978 (originally under the name Tyrant), released their self-titled debut in 1984, and stayed together until 1996, releasing seven albums. The band got back together to play some shows in 2003, then fully reunited in 2008 when some of the members’ other groups such as The Hidden Hand and Debris Inc. fell by the wayside. Now, four years later, we have a new record from the band called “Lillie: F-65,” named after a drug. Go figure.

While the album title may be a reference to a downer, this record is anything but that. It’s shockingly good, probably way better than it has the right to be from a group with so few full documents over the last three decades, but when you consider the quality music its members have made as a whole outside the Vitus name, it shouldn’t be such a shock that this record is so crushing. One of the most pivotal elements to this Vitus resurgence is the return of Scott “Wino” Weinrich to the band in front of the microphone where he belongs. Away from the group he’s maintained his status as a metal icon with groups such as The Obsessed, Shrinebuilder, Place of Skulls, and Premonition 13, as well as his solo work, but this seems to be where he belongs the most. He’s Vitus’ true voice.

The band’s spine comes from the steaming, smoking guitar work of Dave Chandler , who’s the other major star of “Lillie.” He sounds as possessed as ever, and the rest of the band – bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez, who took over for the late Armando Acosta – create a bad-ass low end that keeps this ugly, muddy engine humming.

The record opens with “Let Them Fall,” a bluesy, groove-laden rocker that has Wino expressing his frustration with, “Why do I scream at them?/They never listen.” The track ends with a blurry, fiery guitar pocket that leads nicely into “The Bleeding Ground,” a song that opens with a drone storm before easing into a muscular, punchy guitar riff and some really infectious vocal melodies that make these guys sound as accessible as ever before. “Blessed Night” grows out of the shimmery, hazy instrumental “Vertigo,” and it really sets the thing on fire, with some blazing playing by all members, powerful vocal work from Wino, and a closing sequence that’s aggressive and damn near punk thrash in nature. “The Waste of Time” finds the band paying homage to the aforementioned Sabbath, as the music sounds totally channeled from worshipping the doom pioneers, and lyrically a very dark, apocalyptic portrait is painted, with Wino warning, “The final end draws near.” We close with a fitting one-two punch, the first being the depressing, drug-addled “Dependence,” a song that seems to have a pretty clear aim of putting a human face on addiction and its pull, while Chandler’s guitar just spits fire. The record is capped by “Withdrawal,” a droning, whirring, scary piece of guitar work that sounds like it’s living up to its name. It’s an ambient, jarring piece that I could imagine being the soundtrack to someone trying to defeat the clutches of personal demons.

So don’t sweat this Sabbath reunion stuff, as much as they paved the way for Saint Vitus. “Lillie: F-65” is a truly satisfying comeback from a band that also helped doom metal find the acclaim and incredible level of creativity we know today. This is one of the great metal bands of all time, and Saint Vitus still have something moving and important to say.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/saintvitusofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/items/saint-vitus/lillie-f-65/cd/30622

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/