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What you talkin' bout Big V? - 85%

joncheetham88, February 14th, 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.