It’s a good thing that Saint Vitus spent a couple years out on the road with Scott Reagers back in the fold before heading into the studio to record this second self-titled album with their original singer. I caught ‘em in Cleveland in 2016, and they were quite strong in the live setting. Reagers has not lost his voice at all, and the pairing of his soaring vocals with Dave Chandler’s chunky riffs is pure doom-metal perfection…which brings us to this album.
Self-Titled 2 is a rarity in the Vitus catalogue in that it’s over 40 minutes long – only their two post-Wino albums from the 90’s are lengthier than its 41-minute runtime. And while it does have its share of preludes, interludes and even a 90-second hardcore punk number at the end, it can still stand proudly next to some of those 35-minute classics from back in the day.
“Remains” gets things started with a classic Chandler riff assault more vicious and viscous than a milkshake to a Brexiteer’s noggin. Reagers comes in like a man possessed around 1:20 in, mixing in a gruffer growl with his trademark wail. It even has an extended, strangled-cat guitar solo – another Saint Vitus signature.
Following a three-minute prelude (fittingly titled “A Prelude To”), “Bloodshed” picks up the tempo considerably, a three-minute stomper in the vein of “White Stallions” or “War is Our Destiny.” A little derivative, perhaps, but I can’t complain – “White Stallions” is a personal fav. “12 Years in the Tomb” is also up-tempo by Vitus standards, and comes complete with the catchiest chorus on this record. “Wormhole” brings things back down to a funereal crawl, perfect for some slow-to-mid-tempo headbanging. Oh, and there’s references to trolls, zombies and the walking dead in the lyrics.
The main riff in “Hour Glass” should be required reading for all bearded hipsters enrolled in Doom Metal 101. The verse is vocal-driven, which only makes its periodic reappearance all the more impactful. Zipping synths and croaking bullfrogs dominate “City Park,” along with a lonely bassline and some ominous spoken word. This would be one of those throwaway tracks I was talking about. But then they deliver another tender morsel of doom in “Last Breath,” just as gloomy and depressing as anything heard on Hallow’s Victim…or even Die Healing.
And then, for the hell of it, they throw in a 90-second hardcore song, “Useless,” at the end. It’s actually quite good, if you like Discharge – not something I thought I’d ever be writing in a Saint Vitus review, mind you.
(Season of Mist)