Born Too Late (SST, 1986)
This is the Holy Grail, right here. When Wino joined the band for their third album Born Too Late, Saint Vitus really took it to the next level. Of course, the title track is an all-time classic, while “Dying Inside” is a truly gripping tale of addiction, a song that makes you feel bad about that next beer (or at least it does for me). In true Vitus fashion, we only get six songs here spanning roughly 35 minutes, but there’s been a seismic shift in mood and atmosphere from their first two albums. This is not a happy, positive record, that’s for sure!
As with every Vitus record to date, this one starts off with some squealing guitar antics from Dave Chandler, albeit for just a brief moment before that punishing riff kicks in. Wino’s not as wild as Reagers in the vocal department, but his bitter sneer fits these lyrics like a glove. “Born Too Late” is a pretty simplistic tune, though its message rings true; not a rallying cry, but rather a dismissive shrug, something that many a teenage outsider could relate to. I’ll never be like you—and I’m proud to say so.
“Clear Windowpane” is the only sub five-minute song on here, but it’s not a blazing thrasher like “White Stallions.” More of a bad drug trip, really, the grinding guitars and ominously pounding drums throwing off your sense of balance and adding to the tripped-out lyrics (“Purple dragons, smoke with me/I have friends only I can see”). But tis just a prelude to one of the greatest addiction anthems you’ll hear in doom. There’s nothing glamorous about “Dying Inside” –like the title track, it’s slow, sparse and menacing, the twisted Chandler riffs serving as a soapbox for Wino to warn us of the evils of alcohol. This isn’t some Reefer Madness silliness, either; these words are all too real, perhaps a little personal. Wino sure speaks to his audience, though. Many a heavy-drinking headbanger can relate to this one, including yours truly.
“H.A.A.G.” picks things up on Side B, with a slightly-less-slow thumping backbeat, and cheesy-evil lyrics somewhat akin to “Pray for the (M)asses”. Still, if taken at face value, it’s about going to Hell and all that; definitely not a happy place. When they slow things down about halfway through, you almost feel a chill. Eerie, really eerie. The bass-and-drums intro to “The Lost Feeling” also gives off a feeling of uneasiness, Wino’s whispered vocals sounding like that evil voice inside your head on this tale of mental illness. This tune makes Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets” sound like a nursery rhyme, let’s put it that way.
“The War Starter” is almost the antithesis to Hallow’s Victim’s “War is Our Destiny.” Although tackling the topic of war in similar lyrical fashion, this album-closer is a slow-mo slice of downtrodden doom, as opposed to the faster-paced anthem that opened the previous record. Not a sing-along song by any stretch, but one that makes you sit down and listen, just like the rest of ‘em. Although there are but six songs on here tackling a variety of lyrical themes, they’re pretty much all depressing: from not fitting in to addiction, mental illness and the inevitability of war, Born Too Late paints a pretty bleak picture, just the way doom metal should.