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Drink and be unmerry. - 84%

hells_unicorn, March 18th, 2011

From a historical perspective of Vitus’ early career, this EP/single is something of an outlier in terms of the band’s sound progression, though perhaps this could also be an incorrect assessment. It highlights the band beginning to inch itself away from its punk tendencies, and yet does so by paying a rather interesting tribute to Black Flag, a band that they were all but joined with at the hip despite the rather massive gap in their respective styles. At the center of all of this is newly recruited vocalist Scott Weinrich, affectionately known to all who love this band as Wino, whose clean cut yet mournful baritone is a further departure from the grit and angst of the Reagers days.

Kicking off this brief venture into the dark and despairing is the Black Flag ode to alcoholism and buffoonery “Thirsty And Miserable”, reinterpreted in Saint Vitus’ nostalgic love for the days when Black Sabbath was scaring the hell out of hippies circa 1972. The tempo has been mostly scaled back to a bluesy groove in line with “Vol. 4”, but with the crunch of Iommi’s guitar sound being exchanged for Chandler’s signature, zero treble, overdriven guitar tone. Things pick up for a climactic, hard core conclusion in line with the original, but for the most part this listens like an old school Rock song with a slight hint of a biker hooligan mentality.

The remaining contents take on a less multifaceted approach, and generally groove at a constant, upper tempo pace. “Look Behind You” is a little bit quicker than the other two, befitting the feeling of paranoia it denotes, but the general attractions here are Chandler’s wah pedal drenched stoner shredding and Wino’s lullaby for the forlorn croon. “The End Of The End” is slightly slower and more depressive than it is frantic, but by the standards of the slow and dreary anthems on “Born To Late” it is faster than average. If nothing else, these songs present the band looking back to earlier works, while the album that it immediately followed was looking ahead to a different, much more orthodox way of doing things, by the standards of how traditional Doom bands operate today per say.

I might be alone in my conclusion here, but I actually think that these songs don’t fit in well with the 6 on “Born Too Late” that they now regularly accompany by way of the CD release of said 3rd LP. But they wouldn’t really fit in with “Hallow’s Victim” either given Wino’s radically different vocal style to that of Reagers. It’s just sort of out there on its own, and should be treated as its own album. Part of me wants to say that Vitus took a step back before continuing to move forward, another part says that these songs kick ass and the other part of me is too obsessed with the history of what is simple great music. And if my experience is any judge, anyone else investigating this band with similarly conflicting reactions should go with the one that doesn’t care whether the evolution of the band is consistent from one release to the next.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 18, 2011.

Doom-Punk? - 82%

thomash, February 9th, 2010

This is a very interesting little EP for historical as well as musical reasons. Musically, it offers three solid and distinct songs. However, without any historical background on the band, it seems a strange decision for such an incredibly slow, traditional doom metal band to cover a Black Flag song, even if the lyrics for the song are bleak enough to provide some justification. Apparently, though, Vitus often played with punk bands during their early career because they happened to be signed to a punk label. Needless to say, this didn’t always work out so well for Vitus as punks tended to really hate them.

With “Thirsty and Miserable,” though, the band really managed to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons their early career dealt them. The simple, straightforward riffing may demonstrate the song’s punk origin and, in my mind, isn’t quite as compelling as Vitus’s own compositions but the vocal delivery, doomy tone and Chandler’s psychedelic leads improve a decent punk song and make it fit in Vitus’s own catalog. There’s not much to say about the song in the end, other than that it’s a great straightforward, doomed-up punk song. It’s easily the best doom cover of a punk song I’ve ever heard, considering the relative scarcity of any competition.

The rest of the EP is made up of two Vitus originals, “Look Behind You” and “The End of the End.” The former is a good transition from “Thirsty and Miserable:” A relatively simple, catchy St. Vitus song. It’s not, perhaps, one of the greatest Vitus songs as it is relatively mindless, but paranoia has rarely been so fun. The chorus will undoubtedly stick with you. All of the elements of effective St. Vitus songs are there but, aside from the vocals, they’re not at their most impressive or memorable in this track.

The closer, appropriately entitled “The End of the End,” is undoubtedly the highlight. The riffs and guitar leads are extremely moody and the song structure, straightforward and conventional though it may be, is brilliantly accentuated by the significant changes in tempo, which keep the song interesting. It all seems to build a sense of contempt which matches the lyrics’ disdain for humanity in an apocalyptic world. Wino could have expressed a bit more attitude in this song but it’s still a great song. If his performance were just a bit more memorable, this song might even have been as significant as “Born Too Late.”

The main shortcoming on this release is its length. Clocking in at less than fourteen minutes long, it seems pretty hard to justify buying it on its own. Fortunately, it has been included on the 1995 CD edition of the mighty Born Too Late. It might also be worthwhile to track down an original pressing of Thirsty and Miserable on vinyl (particularly if you’re a collector) since it offers a particularly succinct window into the band without sacrificing too much diversity, but it’s undoubtedly not the most essential of the band’s releases. Even so, I would advise Vitus fans to make every effort to get the CD of Born Too Late with these tracks included since these songs are definitely comparable in quality to those on that magnificent album.

Note: Decibel may not be good for much, but the Hall of Fame article on Born Too Late in the March 2010 issue was helpful in writing this review.