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"Die Healing" is the sound of the beginning of the end. It actually was Saint Vitus’ final statement back in 1995 before they went silent for several years, returning in 2012 with "Lillie: F-65" over a decade after the age of "Die Healing." Although this is definitely one of the band's strongest efforts, it was released at a strange time: Saint Vitus' stint with one-and-done vocalist Christian Linderson had ended after the conflicted "C.O.D." brought the group into a black sheep phase of sorts, while Saint Vitus, like many of its cohorts, was fading into obscurity. However, Saint Vitus' funeral march is easily one of the best records these doom veterans ever released, pretty much on par with the band's classic offerings, and one of the most authentic doom metal albums around.
The biggest thing that brought down "C.O.D" was its chintzy production—that pristine clarity hadn't done much for a fuzzy group like Saint Vitus. On "Die Healing," the sound quality appears focused and clean, but with the sort of grit that makes it feel like Dave Chandler's crew is behind the wheel. While not a huge diversion from the usual Saint Vitus output, "Die Healing" is simply far more consistent and memorable than the works that had foretold its coming. Part of this infatuation is due to the return of Scott Reagers, whose vocals on a handful of the group's primordial recordings greatly enriched the miserable beginnings of these doom demigods. Here, Reagers sounds like Wino wearing a Dr. Seuss hat; his dark, gloomy, awesomely comical and lively vocals are like grey spots within an ocean of black.
I guess one of the nice things about Saint Vitus' discography is that the band never underwent an interpersonal clouding that resulted in the group waking up in some creative wasteland. "Die Healing," while traditional in its roots, is reasonably one of the finest representations of Saint Vitus' sound. The lethargic, slowed paces are not atypical, but Chandler's riffs are absolutely prime, some of the finest licks he's ever put down on tape. In general, however, the songs make the album an experience that is far more interesting and enamoring than "C.O.D." Every tune is great, but "The Sloth" and "In the Asylum" are eight-minute crucifixions of bruising doom, while "Just Another Notch" delivers an up-tempo slice of driving guitar work. Between the three, I'm torn.
The pantheon of Wino has remained the main attraction within the camp of Saint Vitus, but "Die Healing" has turned a piece of my heart into something miserable, bleak, and withered. I had the amazing opportunity to see Saint Vitus live several years after the release of "Die Healing." Although I left the show feeling very satisfied, that little piece cried out for the droning riffs, the raw beatings, the unhurried madness that closed the book on Saint Vitus for several years. "Die Healing" is simply in a world of its own, and it represents everything that Saint Vitus stands for with utmost precision and gloom. It's the coldest blaze of glory I've ever heard.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Die Healing is a pivotal point in Vitus' discog; not only their very last before they temporarily ended their relentlessly classic doom metal album releases with a thirteen year hiatus, but their third recording with Scott Reagers, who helped make the eponymous debut, Hallow's Victim and EP The Walking Dead such milestones of doom. And what a way to go out. Many will tell you this is actually Saint Vitus' finest moment, and although I favour the debut and Wino's career zenith Born Too Late above it, there is no doubt it deserves as solid a place in the pantheon of doom as Nightfall or Master Of Reality or In The Rectory Of The Bizarre Reverend.
The band's sound and instrumentation is class without question. The guitar tone saw a slight departure from the fuzz prevalent on Wino-albums (including the 2012 opus Lillie: F-65), with something more of an electric edge familiar to C.O.D. Fret not, the tone is still plenty burly, and of course massively appropriate for the toking of vaporous substances.
The guitar solos are likewise a little clearer - though of course solos like on 'One Mind' and 'Return Of The Zombie' have that inimitable Chandler scaling chaos in spades, squeaking like a dozen metal detectors malfunctioning. In general though the album's sound gives the feeling of the band moving forward with the sound established on the underappreciated, Chritus Linderson-assisted C.O.D., while welcoming their original singer back into the fold as easily as if he'd never left. It comes together brilliantly.
What cements the album's place atop the pile of '90s Vitus releases is that it's a lot more solid than V and C.O.D. in terms of songs, chock full of highlights with nary a skippable track. 'Dark World' heralds absolutely no messing about, a timeless slow burn Saint Vitus classic to get you going. Reagers unlocks his trademark moon-touched howls, boosted here with a gruffness and depth that must have come with age. He can still hit the unnerving highs that made the debut such a unique piece. Not to mention his more aghast and tragic-heroic style is accompanied by a lyrical shift toward tales of horror and myth, adding further colours of yore to the band's solidified musical approach (although 'In The Asylum' is as brilliantly witty a tale of human disintegration as anything Wino has written for Vitus).
Some of the great knells peeling off Chandler's guitar in the main riff of 'Let The End Begin' are highlights for Vitus' entire career. It climaxes with a great rocking section, splashed with sumptuous guitar and bass solos, in a move actually quite uncharacteristic for the band, who tended to steer between leadweight trawling songs and more rambunctious cuts. The eerie build on 'Sloth' is another of the band's best moments. The entire song, with its off-kilter structure and wailing chorus, is an example of just how muscular the band's creative fibers were at the time. 'Return of the Zombie', a quasi-sequel to the classic, shifty song off the debut of course, makes its mark with a crazed vocal performance and some spooky effects. And of course there's more, I've just listed a few real standouts but the album is too generous in its blessings for them to be exhaustively listed.
It's just a really solid album that builds on all the best things the band had done to date while keeping the songwriting fresh. What a swansong this was. This album is the reason Lillie: F-65 had such vast expectations from me. A must have.
Hello, hello, and welcome to today's lecture. The subject I want to address with you, my fetid pupils, is maturity, and what the process of refinement and growth ought to represent for humans, and, specifically, for that most noble and useful sort of person who challenges preconceptions and shakes ideals, the artist.
The misconception about ageing that some are fooled into advocating is that when you grow old, your mind opens, like a blooming flower. You become more tolerant, forgiving, free. Perhaps you even expect happiness and tranquillity. My friends...this is a belief for the ignorant, the sheltered and the sheep. just take a look around you! What do you see?
"A dull classroom and a really ugly-looking junky loser at the front..."
Did I hear some clean-cut piece of shit pipe up? Trying to be smart? Yes...you in the Black Sabbath shirt?
"Pain, suffering and misery!"
Well done; that is the correct answer. Do you really think it is possible to grow old in such a dark world without becoming a bitter, disenchanted, mentally decayed waste of space? That question is rhetorical...don't try to answer, you stupid fucks. It is not; the idea of growing into a well-rounded, healthy human being as one accumulates experience is a sham. Once you realise that the world is nasty and stinks and that people made it this way because they are slime, you can get over yourself and embrace decrepitude and misery.
Now we come to our "text" for today's session, Saint Vitus's 1995 album, "Die Healing". Note that this is the final recorded work from this band, and thus arguably their most mature and developed. The Wino was a fine representative of the debauched and unwashed, but it is clear to the seasoned veteran that the group lacked a certain gravitas during his tenure with them, to say nothing of that strange Swedish hippy who was on the previous record. If Wino was descending slowly into a dark abyss of uncaring, Reagers has already been there, has died thrice over and is no longer human. In Reagers' depiction, there can be no room for humour or levity. You think Wino, with the things growing in his hair, was the real deal? Bah! Reagers has holes instead of eyes! He carries a bloody axe, a pouch full of needles and because he and a few other disillusioned inmates took over the asylum, he is a fine hand with the electroconvulsive therapy equipment. There are vile things squirming in his skull, which you can see through the spaces where his eyes should be.
In the old days, when Saint Vitus was a young lad, there wasn't any shying away from fast, propulsive music. They even tried this a few times with Wino, but the drunken lout could never seem to bring those numbers alive the way Reagers could. Well, the band learned from this experience, and it's a mark of maturity and stubbornness that, despite having Reagers back, they simply won't record any more fast songs. They don't work anymore. Everything is too shitty, too glum, and if you're tapping your foot or pretending to do double bass drumming, you're obviously a young upstart with foolish ideas about getting ahead in this world. Therefore, Saint Vitus chooses to no longer provide the opportunity for such flightiness, and instead crushes with painful riff after riff, a cold, reverberating sound without a glimmer of hope or optimism. The man with the slothful riffs coming out of his bum, Dave Chandler, has always made great guitar tones emerge from those broken old amps of his, and this album shows us the bleakest, darkest of them all. Armando's drums have their usual weak and dispirited sound, made deliberately powerless (though certainly high enough in the mix) so as not to provide any reassurances of stability or subtract from the grumbling roar of the strings, all of which concentrate on low frequency rumblings, except when Dave rapes your sensibilities with his wailing wah-wah solos.
I confess, having once been a young punk myself, that at first the vocals on "Die Healing" did not sit well with me. However, after being wooed by the Saint in its early days with Reagers, I was then ready for his return a decade later, sounding chillier and more depraved than ever before. His voice feels as though he married the guitar tone on this album, and in fact I've almost never heard a rumbling distorted sound mesh with a vocalist so well. Dave and the producer must certainly be commended.
Now, just think of that album title...and think of the implications. Is it worth healing someone if it kills you? What if those who would receive your gift would happily stab you in the back, as most of your friends no doubt would if the opportunities seemed attractive enough? What does a good person do after a lifetime of disappointment, being proven wrong each time he assumes the best about humankind?
"Turn the other cheek, like christ, and continue to do good works."
No! You, Mr. Plaid, fresh out of your fancy private school... you will die in a gutter, shivering and alone! Gah, I need a stiff drink...back in a few minutes, you little turds.
All right, I feel numb now; I can continue this charade. No, what that abused person I alluded to does, is he turns away and says, "I only care about me!" He stiffens up..he doesn't change for the better because the world and the race keeps throwing him shit! Saint Vitus have finally realised this, and after "Die Healing" there can be nothing else...no glimmer of appeasing hope and no ray of light, anywhere. Eight hymns of sickness and misery is what you will find, each one delivered at a crawling, infirm pace and each presenting a mere few riffs and a smattering of wailing, psychedelic soloing. I might add that Dave's solos are maybe at their best here, winding through the usual histrionic wah-soaked tunnels but also presenting a great deal of extra melody, and seeming more Iommi-influenced than ever before. The riffs here are certainly among the absolute darkest Saint Vitus ever created...I will name "One Mind" and its creeping verses as an exemplar of just how well this works.
If there is any fault with this presentation, it might be that "Let the End Begin" is not the final song on the record and, indeed, of Saint Vitus's well-starred career. I'm not sure what is up with "Just Another Notch", but it sounds rather different from the rest of the album somehow, featuring a slurred and despondently spaced out vocal delivery that, I suppose, fits well the theme of hopeless drug addiction. Still, "Let the End Begin" is very reminiscent structurally of the debut's "Burial at Sea", being largely painfully slow and anguished with a frantic burst of speed in the middle. Reagers' vocal delivery in this song is positively painful...he seems to be playing the part of the reaper, and yet sounds dreadfully afraid and under the thrall of something terrible. Perhaps doing God's work has driven him insane over the centuries!
Yes, there's so much good about this one, but it all ultimately comes down to mood and atmosphere. You won't listen to this one as much as you might earlier Vitus records, because the feeling is just so bleak and cold, especially compared with the Wino albums, that it turns out to be something of an exhausting and downbeat experience, which is exactly how doom should be. Scott and Dave are just at the top of their game in every capacity, and I can't stress enough how great the vocals are, sometimes aided by crazy effects like back-masking to create that special aura of creeping madness, as in “The Asylum”, and generally delivering some very world-weary lyrics. Hell, even the rather inauspicious chorus of "Beware...THE SLOTH!" manages to sound great coming from this man's mouth, and yes, he seems to be singing about the devil and not an attack of arboreal mammals that like to hang upside-down.
To conclude the lecture then, my insignificant stains, I would sell any one of you, especially you pretty ones with glorious tits, just so that I could sleep at night, and dream in a haze of better, unattainable things that you will never know. I believe any one of you would do the same, and that you will eventually come to the same sorts of crossroads that I, and the bard Vitus, have already reached. The world will be more tolerable once everyone realises this. Listen to this record, folks, until you feel sick. Thank you and goodnight...you worms.
Time had not been kind to Saint Vitus, despite proving their mettle again and again as amongst the most dedicated and skilled purveyors of doom metal the world had ever known. But membership hassles and record label woes had derailed and upset the band’s progress, and by the early nineties they were struggling to remain hooked to life support. The Wino years (those spent with the iconic metal vocalist late of The Obsessed who stepped in ’86) had been productive, but the recent addition and subsequent discharge of Christian Linderson (who’d also performed with Swedes Count Raven) as well as the fine but nearly invisible Children Of Doom album had lowered the band’s profile.
So it was a shock to anyone paying attention when it was announced that original singer Scott Reagers would be rejoining the band, which hardcore fans prayed would see a rekindling of this band’s innate sense of metallic woe. Fortunately it did. Die Healing is Saint Vitus’ final album, and a good way to go out it is. Firstly, the sonic nature of the band’s earlier recordings is somewhat restored, that being the gloriously fuzzy and spectral aura that adorned their earliest work. Partly to credit is Reagers himself, as his odd, quavering, snarling voice is the perfect foil for the band’s loping pulse. No offense to Wino, but for these ears, Reagers was this bands first, best choice as vocalist.
The material is up to snuff as well; the somewhat forced sloth of the Wino years being somewhat cleared away. “Dark World” opens the album with an insistent slow, though not lethargic pace, leaving that style to “Let The End Begin” to embrace, which is does with wonderful nihilistic aplomb. “Sloth” is another super-slow tale of horror, reminding one of elder band classics like “Burial At Sea” or “The Psychopath,” whilst “Just Another Notch,” a tale warning of the dangers of addiction mixes things up with a faster tempo, and fuzz master Dave Chandler handling the vocals (well, I might add).
While still not the altar of psychedelic doom the band’s best, earliest work was, Die Healing was in no sense a disappointment or an embarrassment. While it's downright morose to still live in a metal world without the presence of Saint Vitus, we can state that they ended their own career with taste and soul intact.