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Puff is a very mournful and most unhappy dragon, though the reason for this is not immediately clear. Some guess that it may be that the poor old lizard hasn’t had a good burn in a day or so, being as his supplier recently got busted for possession while being publicly dressed like a wizard. Being the paranoid serpent that he is, Puff has decided not to risk meeting with other dealers for fear of getting something else mixed in or potentially getting arrested himself. So here the poor fire-breathing dinosaur sits in his old, broken down recliner in his family’s basement, with all the Doritos corn chips and other assorted munchies that a stoner could want, but not the heart to consume a single morsel.
As if his predicament were not woeful enough, our scaly post-60s friend has decided to try and get himself into a non-cannabis induced reverie by breaking out his father’s brand new vinyl pressed copy of Saint Vitus’ “Mournful Cries”, unknowing that this album contained nothing but the most woefully fatalistic of anthems, devoid of any hope. Nevertheless, the depressed Puff found himself in a bizarre mood of angst and paranoia, perfectly befitting of the opening song “The Creeps”. Rather than continuing to wave the white flag of despairing defeat, he grabs a can of paint and dips it in until it is pure black, and then proceeds to wave his Black Flag around the room as one punk inspired power chord gives way to the next from his retro fashioned stereo speakers.
Suddenly, after the closing of a rather brief upper mid-tempo flogging with just a few too many lead breaks and a guitar tone too muddy to count as real hard core, Puff wonders if the record has just skipped as the lyrics suddenly shift from being about clinical delusions of persecution to a dragon destroying cities. Sure enough, somewhere in that final, free time mess of drum improvisation and blurring tremolo power chords, the first song ended and another, much slower one has begun. Puff identifies heavily with this song, as the psychological withdraw he is suffering from his lack of ganja has given way to thoughts of burning down a few buildings. However, despite his latent homicidal tendencies, the slower and more relaxed feel of “Dragon Time”, coupled with the frequent and riveting lead work out of Dave Chandler that invoked happy images of Jimi Hendrix and Tony Iommi kept him too occupied. By the time the near 8 minute epic had drawn to close, the mournful serpent was a calmer but still very troubled beast.
With his mood gradually coming down from its early peak, “Shooting Gallery” chimes in with a hypnotic, descending riff that brings poor Puff down to the beginnings of despair. Overcome by his unfortunate situation, and no longer taken in by the slower yet still impressive lead guitar work going on, he concentrates on the heavy feeling of the grave-like groove established in the rhythm section and Wino’s lyrics about heroine abuse. Wishing that he could improve his situation, the cellar-dwelling reptile begins daydreaming about finding the perfect dealer and the perfect woman in one package. Unwilling to submit to the irony of dreaming about chasing the dragon while both being one and listening to a song about it, he begins dreaming of a human prize. As the song picks up tempo a bit, an image of a young stoner chick appears with a guitar in hand, sitting on a mountain of quality grade reefer. Sure enough, it is the striking Ukrainian born star of stage, screen, and hit stoner flick “Dazed And Confused” Milla Jovovich. Many would wonder how it is that Puff knows about a movie that will not come out for another 5 years, but to a dragon with his tolerance for mind altering drugs; time and space are quite flexible things.
After being filled with an ecstasy that canceled out the reprise of the depression inducing drone riff of “Shooting Gallery”, our scale-covered protagonist finds himself in a peaceful acoustic guitar intro. For a few seconds our cannabis withdrawn lover boy thinks he’s hearing a variation on Milla’s “The Alien Song”, but then a dark, thudding stoner rock groove ensues and Puff is introduced to the “Bitter Truth”, which involves but is not limited to the fact that “Dazed And Confused” won’t be made for another 5 years and that he’d end up in jail if he tried anything short of time travel. Lamenting in agony over this, he tries to ignore the depressing lyrics and waits in anticipation of better musical subjects than a man facing his own death.
Sure enough, a gradual trill riff begins to fade in and Puff is all set to hear something akin to Jimi’s “Foxy Lady”, only to be let down by another slow, Sabbath inspired doom riff and still no Milla Jovovich. Our dragon friend is completely rebuffed by the trollish nature of such a cruel trick, and sure enough, he discovers that the title of the song matches this sentiment. After putting Milla out of his mind for a few minutes, Puff takes notice of a subtle sense of fun and catchiness amidst probably the slowest and most depressing homage to “Hand Of Doom” that he’s ever heard, spearheaded by a soulful vocal performance out of Wino. Once free of his brief infatuation with the future star of “The Fifth Element”, Puff’s ears are hit with a guitar lead comprised of so much fuzz drenched noise that he can’t make out a single note. It gets so violent that it begins to resemble a dragon mating call, and instantaneously our red dragon has got his mind back on Milla again. One thing is for certain; “The Troll” definitely lives up to its name as far as poor old Puff is concerned.
Before falling completely into thoughts of suicide over all that this album has put him through, Puff comes into contact with a final fit of down tempo swampy goodness in “Looking Glass”. As he begins to contemplate the dreary bastardized blues drones that filter in and out between Wino’s deep recitations, he begins to feel everything become hazy. In the next instance, Puff finds himself awake in his bed in the year 1993, and someone is knocking on his door. When he gets up and answers the door, there stands Milla with a giant bag full of weed in one hand and the newly released “Children Of Doom” album in the other. Once Puff is done telling her the wild dream he just had, she goes over and takes “Mournful Cries” off of the turntable. After a strong recommendation not to listen to that album while on both marijuana and LSD simultaneously, Puff and Milla settle down for a nice burn while listening to the new Vitus album; all the while both of them agreeing that “Mournful Cries” is a better album and that it was a good thing she left Shawn Andrews after how horribly things turned out for her on her recent film project.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 16, 2010.
1988 was a hell of year. It was for me anyway; it was the year that I was birthed rudely, noisily onto a bed somewhere in the depths of the Shrewsbury Royal Hospital, squawking incoherently for sustenance. Little did I know, what I should really have been getting excited about was the release of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Ancient Dreams, Ram It Down, In Battle There Is No Law, Follow Me Into Madness, and all the other quality heavy metal albums recorded in celebration of my coming. Not least, Mournful Cries.
To mark this joyous year was Wino's Mob Rules, or his Piece of Mind, for Saint Vitus. He sounds a little more "clean" here, reaching for higher notes rather than dwelling in the doldrums of his darker performance on the album's predecessor. Much more than on that album, Wino seems to be mixed above the other instruments, much more audible and clear. Chandler seems to be intent on playing around a bit more with his sound, keeping to the winning recipe of warm, velvety guitar riffs developed over the first three albums but with a penchant for more showy, wailing guitar solos and a seeming desire to change up riffs more frequently.
The Saint employ a fast opener once again, the rocking 'The Creeps' with flashy drum solos and Paranoid-style riffing, which flows directly into the album's first classic and its magnum opus, 'Dragon Time.' This track is like 'Born Too Late' slightly accelerated, with a flurry of Hendrix-like soloing and a definitive stoner doom sound in the humming, repeating riff and clattering cymbals. Basically, there are so many things I like about this song. The huge and monstrous 'Shooting Gallery' features a dangerous, marching mid-section that really brings out the sinister side of the Saint. 'Bitter Truth' is a driving, crushing snarl of mean riffing that recalls Candlemass' sophomore from the year before this, while 'The Troll' is like a less malevolent 'Zombie Hunger', oozing forward into a thick and engrossing fuzzy riff and a couple of guitar solos that sound like aircraft going over, slowly. Excuse me while I slip into a stupor. The excellent closer 'Looking Glass' seems to actually precurse Shrinebuilder, a psychedelic stoner doom band Wino would join more than twenty years later, with its low-end groove and fragrant, incense-tinged seventies overtones.
But with Born Too Late having been a thunderous stamp forward into new and virginal meadows of true and traditional doom, Mournful Cries seems little more than a logical continuation and expansion. In fact, in the whole discography of the band, this is probably the most like the album before it. A few older influences are called up again, and the sound is filled out, and in fact this is one of Chandler's most layered and ambitious walls of murky sound. Some of the best albums you could hear do nothing more than take a winning recipe and improve upon it, and Mournful Cries is one of them.
What the Saint didn't realize is that they were writing music that the soft, flabby infant crapping himself at the time would one day discover with copious glee and enjoyment. Why write such a personal review for Mournful Cries then, the reliable one sandwiched between the more famous Born Too Late and V? These are the albums that infant prizes most highly, the ones which represent consistency and solid songwriting, not so much elaborating on past triumphs but expanding them. In other words, no-nonsense bloody great old school of traditional DOOM in capitals. Mournful Cries is a fourth powerful insertion into the legendary annals of Saint Vitus, little more and definitely nothing less.
Saint Vitus's follow up to their legendary Born Too Late LP is worthy to bear the name of metal's favorite patron saint, even though to tell the truth, all of their albums are good. See the mighty V are one of those bands where you know what to expect with every album. There aren't going to be any EBM drum machines, rapping, or neoclassical guitar shredding; just solid no-frills doom metal by four burnt out hippies.
This is something that is completely lacking in today's metal and even of the glorious days of old, a band with something good that decides to max out 7 albums with little changes and simple-to-heart honesty that's a breath of fresh air from the pretentious theology-obsessed kvlt black metal that dominates the scene at the moment. Those who always demand something new and shiny, with a lot of whiz bang gimmicks and over-board technicality, take warning, Saint Vitus is for those who think that if ain't broke, don't fix it.
On Mournful Cries, the big V decide to mix up the sound a little bit without changing the fundamentals. You still have the traditional blues-based doom that the V are masters in. Wino is at the helm and he personally is my favorite as frontman for Vitus and his gruff, masculine better suited thier mud caked sound than Reager's gothic tone. Dave Chndler still does his wah-molesting leads and the bass and drums rumble along in true Cro-Magnon glory. What is key to their sound is the subtlety and emotion that lies behind those simple roadhouse riffs. Saint Vitus create the perfect soundtrack to the great biker tragedy that was never filmed. This is a dark journey down that desolate highway in America where heroin and suicide wait the ill-fated protagonist. But the band trudges along anyway, saying a big fuck you to the world in the process.
This is one of their more complex and diverse albums, not that complex from a technical standpoint but theres a few curveballs now and then. The uptempo opener The Creeps takes the listener by surprise but are soon greeted by the familiar roar of Dragon Time. Other surprises include the apocalyptic drum domination at the end of Shooting Gallery and the drawn out drone of The Troll which even for Vitus feels lethargic (but in a good way). Overall the sound is sounds like a more nuanced and slighlty better produced Born Too Late.
While this isn't my favorite work from this band (that would go to Die Healing) all of their albums are good and this is one of their albums. So if you like solid, no-bullshit metal, go out and buy this instead of the new Mastodon.
Following up an album as good as “Born Too Late” may be a have been a tall task for some bands, but for one as great as Saint Vitus can pull it off. Saint Vitus does just that with the follow-up, “Mournful Cries”.
“Mournful Cries” follows perfectly in the steps of “Born Too Late”: under-produced, simple, and most of all, disturbingly slow. This is however doesn’t have as good of songwriting as “Born Too Late”, but outside of that, it never falters!
The album opens with the relatively fast paced, for a doom metal band at least, “The Creeps” followed by the best song of the album “Dragon Time”. As the title would indicate “Dragon Time” has the Dio-esque flair of telling the story of a dragon haunting a village. The general theme of this album has a mid evil vibe, which fits almost perfectly, even if it is a bit cheesy at times.
But as said, this album is not as good as “Born Too Late”, and isn’t because that album was just so perfect that it couldn’t be topped. “Mournful Cries” has a few signs of decreasing songwriting. Also, it seems that these songs were under rehearsed before recording them.
Overall, faults aside, “Mournful Cries” is still a solid album by Saint Vitus. If you enjoy doom metal, you will enjoy this. If you like Saint Vitus, you will enjoy this.
Much like it’s predecessor Born Too Late, Mournful Cries is big on Saint Vitus’ sluggardly tempos, features only 6 cuts in it’s contents, and remains another doom metal landmark. Having spent the early part of their career out of step with the thrash metal movement, Vitus continued to cower in the light of underground fashion. Death metal and it’s ensuing domination was brewing up like a cauldron full of pus, but Vitus simply threw their monk hoods over their heads and forged ahead oblivious. They’d survive that movement, and live long enough to sneer at black metal’s fashion surge as well, eventually coming into vogue as stoner rock marched into center stage nearly 20 years after the band’s inception.
But as for Mournful Cries itself, it actually represented a slight improvement over the band’s prior album Born Too Late, as it’s songs stick to the robs better and more often. “Dragon Time” is more than a touch hokey in the lyrical department, but this slow descent is marked by killer riffs and a monster chorus, making it one of the band’s finest. “Bitter Truth” raises the pulse (a smidge) while “The Troll” is perhaps this band’s best ever ode to sloth tempo, while revisiting the social alienation theme of prior albums. Perhaps the addition of Wino’s guitar skills helped give the album an edge. Perhaps it’s just a killer doom opus. Whatever the case, Mournful Cries is a damn fine listen. Vitus would take a turn for the worse after it, as Wino would depart the ranks after recoding one more album, the disappointing V.