V (Hellhound Records, 1990)
Depending on who you talk to, this record either came out in 1989 or 1990, though I suppose that might be the difference between the European and North American release dates. This was, of course, the band’s first album for Hellhound, a long-defunct German label that put out a boatload of Maryland doom between ’90 and ’95 from the likes of Iron Man, Revelation, Unorthodox, Wretched—and also Count Raven, whose singer would join Vitus for their next release. But more on that in a couple days. This fifth effort offers a whopping (by Saint Vitus standards) eight tracks, though aside from the opening salvo of “Living Backwards” and “I Bleed Black,” there aren’t a whole lotta memorable moments on this one.
“Living Backwards” is a solid mid-tempo chugger, a hard-rolling backbeat, head-nodding riff and far-out solo, all in a mere 2:31. “I Bleed Black” adopts a similar, if slightly-slower pace, with a simple, memorable chorus. This song has it all, addiction, outsiderness, and a critique on society (specifically that “L.A. game”) wrapped around a weaving, serpentine riff that winds its way through both headphones. If “Born Too Late” shrugged off the rest of the world, “I Bleed Black” gives society the middle finger.
“When Emotion Dies,” at a shade over two minutes, is sort of that mellow, dark interlude that up to this point did not have its place in Vitus’ music. We also get female backing vocals on this one, definitely another first. And that’s about all that’s notable about this song, really. “Patra (Petra)” takes us back into familiar territory, however, a seven-and-a-half-minute, super-slow-mo number full of longing lyrics and gloomily ringing notes. This song is awfully drawn out, even by Vitus standards, and sorta sounds like a blueprint for funeral doom in some respects—the eerie instrumental section that ushers in the guitar solo brings Winter to mind.
“Ice Monkey” opens up with an eerie, grinding shuffle, but man, c’mon, “Ice Monkey?” I suppose it might be allegory, but these lyrics seem awfully nonsensical to me—and there’s nothing that really grabs me musically here, either. Jack Frost comes next, another seven-minute stomper—and yes, this song is really about Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Sorry Wino, but even you can’t make this subject matter sound badass. Hell, gimme “Dragon Time” any day! Also of note: both of the aforementioned tunes contain sloppy, noisy guitar solos of limited musicality—with the latter’s being particularly grating. This is not Dave Chandler’s finest hour here, either.
The last two tracks don’t really right the ship, “Angry Man” combining a fairly fast-paced verse with a Lynyrd Skynyrd chorus, albeit with slightly more profanity. Not a bad number, I suppose, but it doesn’t really sound like Vitus—until we’re hit with that screechy, snivelling guitar solo, that is. “Mind-Food” is almost grungy in its approach, though grunge was just in its infancy here. Paired with some bizarre, bad-trip lyrics, it kinda ends the album with a whimper. Like I said yesterday, these guys jumped the shark with Mournful Cries…