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"C.O.D." is the black sheep of Saint Vitus' discography and often considered the band's weakest moment from what I can tell. To be honest, this is actually a fairly decent product, miles away from a bed-shitting abomination like "Risk" or the like. There's no stylistic confusion or big identity issue going on here: "C.O.D." is all about the doom. The album is sort of difficult to swallow for two reasons: the vocals, and the production. The gentlemen of Saint Vitus brought in a bloke named Christian Linderson of Count Raven and others to sing on his first and last Saint Vitus full-length (Wino had been out of the band since 1991 at this point) while the fuzzy distortion of previous Saint Vitus offerings was replaced with a polished production job. Remarkably, "C.O.D." isn't as conflicted or mismanaged as it could've been. In fact, it's quite enjoyable.
Despite the changes going on around the group, most of "C.O.D." remains moderately consistent compared to what the band had released during the Wino years. Two noticeable differences are the surplus of quicker anthems and the lack of miserable beatings like "Dying Inside," although Saint Vitus is pretty much riding the doom train here. The group's sound simply feels like it had been mildly altered for Linderson's vocals and the clear production, but not for modernization or mainstream props. Dave Chandler's riffs still roast like brisket over a grill, and most of the tempos slowly hammer and crush onwards. The only thing "C.O.D." truly lacks, however, is a prime cut that rises above the rest. Some of its offerings are better than others, sure, but none are universally superb despite the stable consistency.
The fact that the twelve songs together clock out after an hour's running time without a true gem makes the record a little tedious towards its final moments. Needless to say, I could survive without "Bela" or one of its neighbors. Linderson, on the other hand, does a wonderful job filling the void left by Wino. His stylistic approach is reasonably similar to Wino's, and he in general delivers a filling performance within this garden of doom; he's a perfect example of a replacement vocalist who lives up to his or her predecessor's standards. The production, too, is a change of sorts; the thunderous drums and polished guitar tone are miles from the fuzzy characteristics of previous outings. It's an acceptable frontier, but it doesn't validate the total Saint Vitus experience.
And that is perfectly fine at the end of the day. Though I'm sure having a wonky sound quality and a new vocalist would derail the average band, Saint Vitus managed to avoid any artistic pitfalls and actually released a fairly enjoyable album. "C.O.D." remains a fine listen without moving forwards—it's more of a stationary piece than a progressive one. With that being said, Chandler and company delivered a gratifying collection of doom that remains honest to the Saint Vitus legacy. Obviously not an essential buy, but "C.O.D." has its glimmers of brilliance, and that cannot be said about most slumps. Even when the efforts of Saint Vitus aren't very good . . . they're still pretty good.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Before there was Children Of Bodom, but not before there was "Children Of The Grave" or "Children Of The Corn", there was "Children Of Doom" (or C.O.D. for short and for those who like some fish mixed in with their metal), a rock solid offering of doom that would make the Ozzman and company proud, but apparently not all in their core fan base. This is the most contentious of Saint Vitus' offerings, and not without good reason. Although former Count Raven vocalist Christian Lindersson isn't stylistically all that different from Wino or Reagers, and the band as a whole doesn't really do anything stylistically out of character on here, the production and the general presentation has taken a dramatic shift that had some crying sellout. While I personally do not share this sentiment, it must be admitted that the resulting product here is a bit closer to Count Raven than what Saint Vitus had become known for on their previous studio endeavors. Whether or not this is seen as a good thing depends largely on how attached one is to the older, muddy and occasionally fuzz steeped atmosphere established and maintained through the duration of the 80s.
To elucidate a bit further on exactly what is going on here, it is necessary to draw some specific distinctions between this album and the more commonly known Saint Vitus of the SST productions era, and the subsequent 5th album known as "V". On all of said albums, the character of the arrangement was a good bit darker and muddier, particularly insofar as the guitars were concerned. The production of the drums was noted for its retro feel, being heavily present in a manner more befitting of Sabbath or Zepplin, lacking the somewhat processed and in-your-face character of more posh mixing work that started coming about in the late 80s with the advent of albums like Def Leppard "Hysteria” and Metallica’s "Black Album". But most important of all, the arrangement was known for its bareness and more conducive to a live setting, as guitars were not really tracked much beyond singular rhythm sections which were only accompanied by a lone lead track when a solo would pickup the slack for whoever was screaming into the microphone. "C.O.D." essentially goes the other direction and embraces the tracking and mixing practices of more mainstream releases, though thankfully Vitus did not go the direction of Metallica stylistically and has not stripped their songs of the necessary meat and potatoes.
Whether or not these changes in sound presentation were an experiment for personal artistic enrichment by the band, or an attempt to smoothen things up for wider listening consumption, what results is yet another fine collection of heavy, down tempo goodness. The riff work is still ground pounding and memorable, though a bit more punchy and less muddy, the vocals still retain a woeful quality, the rhythm section maintains its characteristic looseness in feel in spite of the added clarity of the mix, and Chandler has actually outdone himself in the lead department and put together some of the wildest solos heard in the genre, while remembering the obligatory noise usage and choppy passages that manage to push their way past the slick feel surrounding them. Some of their faster material such as "A Screaming Banshee" and "Imagination Man" tend to lose a bit of the punk rock edge typical of Vitus' mid 80s work and comes off like a heavier version of Billy Idol, but largely the character of this album lends itself a bit towards an epic sound, albeit without the operatic vocals. Good examples are provided in "Planet Of Judgment" and "Get Away", both of which come oddly close to a Solitude Aeternus character with something of an outer space-like feel at times in the case of the latter. Generally the riffs are a bit more repetitive, but the somewhat more melodic character of certain sections meshed with the larger sounding atmosphere definitely points it in an epic direction.
Ultimately this album seems to be doomed in many quarters (no pun intended), but it does not deserve to be ignored. Sure, there's a bit of additional guitar tracking on the infectiously catchy title song "Children Of Doom", the grooving yet epic "Shadow Of A Skeleton" and a few other selected works, but it doesn't steal any of this album's thunder. People often tend to forget that Sabbath themselves did a good amount of experimentation with their tracking methods, churning out unquestionable classics like "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Sabotage". Naturally the technology that makes a clearly defined and somewhat pristine sounding work like this was not available in 1974, but this isn't really much of a reason to denounce music that takes advantage of the tools of the day. Judging it solely on the merits, apart from any expectations that could possibly be built upon the sonic consistency of the 5 previous albums, this is somewhere between the band's first two albums in terms of quality. It doesn't quite reach the raw quality of the debut, but it tends to stick by you a bit longer than the faster and heavily Black Flag influenced “Hallow’s Victim”. It's a worthy pick up, though it will probably appeal to fans of Candlemass a bit more than anything else put out under the Vitus name.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 15, 2010.