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What a swansong this was - 93%

joncheetham88, January 18th, 2013

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.

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