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Saint Vitus - Lillie: F-65

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Artist: Saint Vitus

Album: Lillie: F-65

Label: Season of Mist

Review date: May. 22, 2012

During more than 30 years together, St. Vitus played by a single rule, a rule many heavy rock and metal bands eventually forget -- focus simply on being the best at being yourself. As a result, Lillie: F-65 (named after a powerful downer, thanks Wikipedia) sounds like it could well have been released in 1987. And if it were released in 1987, it might even sound more plausible had it been busted out of a time capsule marked “1972.” But guitarist Dave Chandler and legendary vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich have always worn their influences on their weathered denim sleeves regardless of their surroundings. And they certainly do so on this focused and unpretentious seven-song comeback offering, the band’s first since 1995 and its first with Weinrich on vocals since 1990.

“Let the Fall” gets right down to business, dispensing altogether with an intro as Chandler’s unearthed fossils of riffs crunch along to a suitably lethargic tempo. Few can match Chandler’s refined sense of crudity. He relies as much on his guitar tone – a throaty, oversaturated grind that seems to crumble under its own weight as the chords decay – as his sparse note choices. “The Bleeding Ground” features a skeletal blues-rock riff reminiscent of Welsh power trio Budgie, with Chandler’s nasally trills accenting Weinrich’s burly paranoid chant about government-sanctioned pollution. The tune ends with a churning double-time coda that reminds us St. Vitus was once part of the SST stable.

The acoustic interlude “Vertigo” changes things up for a real surprise, its orchestration and percussion hinting at a distinct Swans influence (and not early Swans either – their sprawling late-1980s, early-90s work comes to mind). “Blessed Night” and “The Waste of Time,” bring things back to the comfort zone; the former steps up the tempo if only slightly, while the latter shows new drummer Henry Vasquez’ ability to keep the lumbering paces interesting, embellishing with propulsive tom rolls.

“Dependence” sets Weinrich’s scathing narrative of addiction – an update of “Dying Inside” from Born Too Late, if you will – to yet more dirge. Chandler complements the grim subject matter with the help of a wah pedal that must be set to “stun,” creating a guitar solo that sounds like a circular saw ripping through a plywood plank. A lengthy interlude of ghostly feedback follows, before it lurches back to life for another verse, ending with Weinrich’s desperate cry of “I depended on you!” The album closes with “Withdrawal,” an oozing noisescape of guitar feedback.

On a 1988 episode of MTV’s Headbangers Ball (and I have the VHS tape to prove it), there’s an interview with some industry experts of the day reporting from Concrete Marketing’s Foundations Forum, the first heavy metal trade show, then in its first year. Experts agreed that if metal bands didn’t progress and embrace change, they’d become “dinosaurs” over the coming decade. Some bands listened, and we got Dream Theater. St. Vitus was a “dinosaur” when they started, and they’re content to maintain their hoary trudge right on past whatever trends blow through even the “stoner metal” scene. Though their formula has changed scant little over the past three decades, it has lost little of its potency.

By Adam MacGregor

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