"Lillie: F-65"

(Season of Mist)

01. Let Them Fall
02. The Bleeding Ground
03. Vertigo
04. Blessed Night
05. The Waste of Time
06. Dependence
07. Withdrawal

RATING: 8.5/10

You can imagine the doomers have been chanting "at last?at last?" amongst themselves since late May when SAINT VITUS returned to the scene they all but created alongside CATHEDRAL, PENTAGRAM, CANDLEMASS and of course, the mighty BLACK SABBATH beforehand.

One can almost picture sludge monger Dave Chandler in the midst of his self-imposed exile from the metal scene as a resurge in the American underground gave rise to countless stoner and doom bands that have reaped from what Chandler and SAINT VITUS once sowed to mostly unappreciative audiences. VITUS should've had a heyday, but only the punkers cared back when the band had kickstarted what would become the doom underground. While it's been a blast having doom come up as a viable and widespread form of music expression in the 2000s, the absenteeism of SAINT VITUS has been criminal, even as CANDLEMASS calls it a career for their part.

To their credit, at least SAINT VITUS waited until the fences were mended and the blood of brothers ran thick once more. Scott "Wino" Weinrich has gone on to stake a distinguished career outside of VITUS with THE OBSESSED, SPIRIT CARAVAN, THE HIDDEN HAND, PLACE OF SKULLS, SHRINEBUILDER, his solo work and now his collaborations with Conny Ochs (let us not forget Wino's anonymous bass work in THE MENTORS). The fact Weinrich would take a pause from his manic schedule to rejoin Chandler and bassist Mark Adams along with current drummer Henry Vasquez says something about the possibility of rekindling old torches for old friends. Even though the prospect had a strike against it considering the last couple SAINT VITUS albums tanked for fans and critics alike nearly two decades ago.

Wino could've brought his six string arsenal with him to SAINT VITUS for a major overhaul, but to his credit, all Weinrich brings is his sandy pipes and they bring most of the mojo back for the group's latest offering, "Lillie: F-65". While we're not gaining another "Born Too Late" for 2012, at least Chandler, Weinrich, Adams and Vasquez weave plenty of the dark magic for their fans to chew on.

The customary doom riff slides SAINT VITUS built a humble existence out of waddle straight out of the band's forlorn past on the opening number, "Let Them Fall". Chandler writes some introspective lyrics about the simplicity of an outsider lifestyle growing too complex from the demands of a 24-7 society he rejects. Chandler's master plan is to simply pull on some weed along with his low end chords and enjoy an uncomplicated existence. If you're metal, you can easily relate as well as let your noggin droop up and down at seventy degrees in tandem.

The general theme of "Lillie: F-65" has to do with one mean mother of a barbiturate trip, and leave it to Chandler and company to throw down at the entire stoner and doom ethos not in a salutary manner, but to fundamentally intimidate. Much of the half-hour long album is set to the time-honored SABBATH shamble to which doom owes all. "The Bleeding Ground" and "The Waste of Time" are as Iommian as they are Chandler-esque, ditto for the spacey intro to "Dependence". Even Chandler's elegant instrumental "Vertigo" carries shades of Tony Iommi as it does Mike Oldfield. The difference to Chandler's playing, of course, is his twisted, arcane sense of unruliness that has somehow gelled logically for years despite its brackish intractability.

If anything, "Lillie: F-65" is the anti "Dopesmoker" from once-disaffected elders now on a non-preachy crusade to warn against the terrors of hard drug usage. Using doom as a medium serves as the perfect vehicle with which to take a stance that's not really hardline as it is "Scared Straight" for metal freaks. Pot may still be a part of SAINT VITUS' creed, but Dave Chandler has something to say with this album and it's not just how happy he is to be playing again.

His devilish, minutes-long distortion screeching and cranking throughout "Dependence" is scary as fuck, make no mistake about it. In Chandler's tortured finale, "Withdrawal" writhes as hideously as its namesake with a guitar solo of the damned. Craft-wise, Chandler's audile torment giving voice to drug addiction is impressive, even if its ear-splitting cacophony might drive the uninitiated to their knees in agony.

The recent passing of drummer Armando Acosta could've derailed the spirit of comradeship that was sparked in 2003 when the constituents of SAINT VITUS got together for a one shot gig. Fortunately for the doom sect and the metal community at-large we were able to get another dose of VITUS, whether it stands as the band's final act or if something unimaginably bigger evolves from it. Either way it stacks, this is a cult band, forevermore. "Lille: F-5" was almost a decade in the making and for some listeners its brevity might seem shortchanged. On the other hand, the likelihood of a new SAINT VITUS album with "Wino" Weinrich seemed as unlikely as a new Roth-led VAN HALEN record. Sweet deal we get both in the same year.


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