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To be honest with you I think this album sounds like it was released a good amount of years too late. Not just one or two, more like fifteen. Possibly more. It sounds like a band that later inspired Black Sabbath to develop a similar sound for their debut album. And it definitely sounds like something the guys from Hellhammer listened to when they were kids, rather than Hellhammer's demos - oddly - predating this by a year. There's something very late 60s about it, something that makes it fall into the same timeframe of dark post-hippie disillusion as Black Sabbath and The Doors. It could be the latter, with a different singer, no keyboard, and all strung out on heroin (I pick heroin because I don't think benzodiazepines existed back then, not sure though). Apocalyptic post-psychedelia. Sounds about right.
The first two Saint Vitus albums - this one in particular - are among the oddest things I've heard in the metal realm. Much stranger than overbearing avantgarde shit such as Mr. Bungle, Unexpect, Peccatum, et cetera. It's like music such as this shouldn't even exist in this universe, because it seems too far removed from anything we perceive as being in congruence with our reality as we understand it. Let me try to give you an impression of what it sounds like to me using Black Sabbath as an example. I'm picking Black Sabbath because it is a notable influence, though certainly not the only one. Anyway, imagine Sabbath's career were moving chronologically backwards. Let's start in the 70s here so we don't have to go through their entire backcatalogue. Imagine "Vol. 4" was Black Sabbath's first album. Then "Master of Reality" is their second, "Paranoid" their third, and then the self-titled album is their fourth. Now imagine that the band Earth never existed, and instead of following up their now fourth album with whatever blues type of music Earth played you take the backwards development of the Black Sabbath style and spin it further into the unknown. Muddier, more inchoate, more protozoic and somewhat creepier with each passing album. Then, when you followed that backwards movement all the way to the eighth album (being some time in 1962 or so), you've arrived at Saint Vitus. All their influences (I was only using Sabbath as an example, as I mentiond) reverse engineered to a form that would have existed in the early 1960s if heavy metal and doom metal had not evolved from rock music but came into being at zero metalness (but nothing else either) in 1950 and slowly but steadily grew more and more in metal content (without rock music or blues or any other form of music ever having any influence). Sounds like an odd description, doesn't it? Yeah, but it's an odd album.
The "production" is of course worth noting in this context. Well, the guitar sound more so than the production as a whole. The way this guitar sounds is a major contributing factor to the strange atmosphere this album permeates. The first time I heard the album I described it as "the audial equivalent of British food", being the indecipherable mush that it is. There really isn't much treble going on, it's a bassy rumble, and a pretty muddy one at that. It really serves to amplify that feeling that I described before, that of being some super early band recording this on ancient recording technology. I mean, don't get me wrong, you can easily make out the riffs and all, it's not the "black metal rehearsal tape limited to 5 copies" sort of muddy. There's just this whole sense of haze about it that makes it seem really out of this world. To be honest, the closest comparison I can think of are actually the Hellhammer demos I briefly mentioned earlier. It's that same sort of outlandish bassy roar, only with - very good - clean vocals instead of tonedeaf shouting.
Those vocals are something I actually enjoy greatly about this album and Reagers-fronted Saint Vitus in general. He has that great style of dramatic narration that I have never heard before. Well, actually I have, in a Frasier episode where Frasier meets his teenage idol, a really, really bad Shakespeare actor who had made a career as a robot in a sci-fi show. Maybe you've seen it. In music however I have never heard this style of vocals before. It's very interesting because his performance is like he's doing a radioplay, like the stuff Orson Welles used to do, but totally and completely overacting it. It's sort of like when kids in a high school theater production try really hard to act emotional and it ends up being really over the top, with one key difference: Scott Reagers actually makes it work. I don't know how, but somehow the guy manages to turn a style of vocals that should sound cheesy and gratingly over the top into something that actually creates a neat piece of atmosphere all by itself. I suppose it's commonplace in metal for artists to arrive at just the right place by going one step (or more) too far.
Overall this is pretty neat stuff and I can definitely see how this can have its fans, quite devoted ones even. However - as you may have guessed by the relatively low score - this isn't exactly my sort of thing. It's cool and all, and I can sort of appreciate it as sort of a thought experiment, along the lines of what would it be like if music history had played out like I tried to describe in the second paragraph. But musically, when looked upon by me as someone who is seeking enjoyment from the music, it just doesn't really do anything for me. It doesn't click with me. As taste in music often seems to be defined by what we can personally relate to this falls flat because it holds no emotional relevance to me as a person. I can respect it, I don't mind hearing it, but it's nothing I'd make a habit of listening to.