C.O.D. (Hellhound, 1992)
Before you even put this one on, you can tell something is amiss here. For one thing, there are 12—that’s right, 12!—tracks listed on the back, for a total runtime of 62:29. (That’s almost as long as any other two Vitus albums put together!) Perusing the liner notes, one notices that this record was produced by Don Dokken. That’s right, the Dream Warrior himself. And oh yeah, Wino’s not singing on this one, either. After the successful relaunch of The Obsessed with Scott Reeder and Greg Rogers, Weinrich left his former bandmates behind, who then enlisted Count Raven frontman Christian Linderson to fill the void.
After a two-minute-long intro of nature sounds and church chanting, the de-facto title-track “Children of Doom” kicks in. You’ll notice the cleaner production here; it certainly doesn’t sound as rough as their past releases. And while Linderson has a slight Swedish accent, his voice isn’t dramatically different from Wino’s. Not to mention that those trademark Dave Chandler riffs are still present and accounted for. Not a bad way to start things off. “Planet of Judgement” keeps ‘er slow ‘n low, this song slightly Sabbathian in style. That said, it’s a little lengthy at 7:40, and gets a tad repetitive after a while. Linderson’s vocals are a bit whiny and toneless, which only adds to the tedium. “Shadow of a Skeleton” kicks things up a notch, however, kinda feeling like Pentagram meets The Obsessed. Can’t complain about that!
“(I Am) The Screaming Banshee” is one of just a couple sub-four-minute tunes on here, a mid-paced slog that doesn’t bring much to the table, aside from the lyric “You try to ignore me/But that won’t work, dear/I am the tortured sound/Within your ear” Tortured sound, indeed! “Plague of Man” brings back the doom, the longest song here at just a hair over eight minutes. This one could stand with some of the other super-slow-mo numbers in the Vitus back catalogue—if you can get past the fact that the vocals aren’t quite what they used to be. Wait, did they really just follow-up a song called “Plague of Man” with one entitled “Imagination Man”? They sure did! The latter is another more upbeat slice of Maryland-style doom, Linderson a little more nasal than normal on this one.
“Fear” was the de facto single, a song they even shot a music video for. A pretty solid riff from Chandler laid upon a bed of glass, I always thought this was a pretty decent track. “Get Away” begins with some softly-strummed chords, and for a moment I’m afraid we’ll be forced to ingest some power-ballad pablum along the likes of “Alone Again.” But after a few murmured stanzas, we’re met with an interesting tribal drum beat and what sounds like a cello. It’s definitely not going the Top 40 route. Suddenly, a crescendo of crashing drums and slow, ringing notes assures us that yes, this is still Saint Vitus—though it remains a bit of an oddball tune.
“Bela” returns to more traditional Vitus territory, a slow, drawn-out doom number, somewhat reminiscent of “Born Too Late” or “Dying Inside,” albeit darker and more sinister—complete with cheesy vampire lyrics. “A Timeless Tale” is another two-minute interlude, Dave Chandler screaming about Jack-O-Lanterns amidst a flurry of chainsaw guitar riffs. Weird. Even weirder is their decision to exhume “Hallow’s Victim” at the end of this one. Linderson does a decent job vocally, but he’s no Scott Reagers.
Don’t get me wrong, I can see why the doomsters didn’t much like this album upon its release, clean production and accented vocals notwithstanding. While Vitus blazed a trail for over a decade up to this point, C.O.D. sees them taking the backseat, carrying on in the style of many other doom bands that had come before and after, not to mention a few of their own Hellhound labelmates. That said, I don’t think this is a bad record, but it just doesn’t have that trademark Vitus sound. Not surprisingly, the band broke up after this one, though they’d bring Reagers back into the fold three years later to write a proper epitaph—or so we thought…