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Saint Vitus - Heavier Than Thou
Review: This compilation of American doom metal band St. Vitus could be described on the whole as a fusion between the drone of Black Sabbath and roadhouse rhythms of Motorhead, although the melodic sensibilities of vocalists Weinrich and Reagers approximate the work of Angel Witch and other NWOBHM bands. This refreshing approach uses faster vocals and more uptempo riffs which then descend into the dirgelike cadences of doom metal from Sabbath onward, fostering an atmosphere of descent instead of immersion. True to the Motorhead influence, riffs are not longer strings of chords, but budget-style contraptions of rhythm playing that extemporizes on a few notes; in contrast, a folk-music familiarity permeates choruses and lyrics, as if technological expediency colliding with timeworn wisdom forced these anthems of discontent from the mythological ground of humanity's conception.
Although the fundamental statement of doom metal is one of depression, St. Vitus interprets this as a Bukowski-influenced bleakness formed of ragged human energy impacting a milieu of function depleted of meaning. This music articulates an outsider sensation of watching the world pass without a symbol or emotion on which to peg it, leaving its protagonists too deflated to even find much of a contrary identity. Riffs carve themselves from a dead man's hand strum, a laconic churning behind the beat that allows these languid creations to unfold: a simple motif of circularity followed by an unfolding of linear phrase in even intervals, or a muttering repetition undulating into staggered leaps in tone that recurse to a two-note melodic fragment sliding into invisibility. Songs comprise a riff pair and an interlude or bridge to a complementary riff that contorts the original chord progression into a simplified, more repetitive version. The sensibility of this work is of a descent into formless space as riffs lose what in relative light of their simplification seems to be embellishment, and the droning path of music descends further into letting its lowest notes reverberate through air cleared by earlier motion.
While the Weinrich vocals stay closer to a surly masculine, and Reagers chooses higher registers with more timbre, both have a theatrical delivery that like country music comments on the passing lyrics with gestures and timbral changes in voice. What is achieved by this is a greater sense of motion through the wasted landscape portrayed; lead guitar is almost decorative, like a protest of thoughts at sudden realization of immersion in danger, but in a bluesy method of alternating hammered patterns with graceful tendrils of melody, fleshes out the worldview presented. Somewhere between the proto-metal of Black Sabbath and the depressant plodding of Winter, St. Vitus remains a fundamental testament of doom metal that sees the abyss and gleefully stares into it for sustenance, knowing the world surrounding will never provide as much energy to souls considering themselves already lost.