Released: 2012, Season of Mist
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Of all the albums scheduled for a 2012 release, there were only two that I was really, reeeally psyched for. The first of course is the new Black Sabbath studio disc, which at this point seems to be questionable due to alumni drama and health issues. The other is LILLIE: F-65, the first collection of new material from doom legends Saint Vitus since 1995, and the first to feature iconic frontman Wino since ’90. The Saint Vitus discography reads like lesson in doom metal history: V, BORN TOO LATE, DIE HEALING, MOURNFUL CRIES, you get the idea; sufficed to say, their impact has been immeasurable. The caveat of course though, is that the longer the period of inactivity between albums, the larger the legend grows.
So the prospect of a new Saint Vitus album after almost a twenty year hiatus from the studio is one that’s met with both excitement and trepidation. If it sucks, then the legend is tarnished and the brand loses credibility. If it’s a home run, the band finally receives some long overdue validation and acknowledgement for a job well done. LILLIE: F-65 doesn’t suck, that’s the good news. The not so good news is that it’s not the homerun I’d hoped for either.
I’ll cut to the chase – LILLIE: F-65 feels unfinished. Maybe the album was up against a studio deadline, maybe the band just ran out of ideas, I dunno, but for a supposed comeback album LILLIE: F-65 is surprisingly light on content. The track list cites seven tunes that clock in at around 34 minutes, which in all fairness lines up with the older Wino albums. But considering that one track is an instrumental interlude (“Veritgo”) and another is a wall of Chandler guitar noise (“Withdrawal”), the run time gets shaved down to well under 30 minutes and it leaves you with “that’s all?” feeling by the end of the album. That’s like a sitcom minus the commercials. Had the tunes been released as a series of singles or seven inches, or as an EP I probably would have been fine with it, but the whole thing feels a bit anticlimactic.
On the album’s remaining five tracks, however, Saint Vitus sounds as good as ever. It’s easy to draw parallels with the new tracks against their classic material, but it’s more a sense of familiarity than one of self-plagiarism. “Let Them Fall” opens with Wino’s gruff below against a trudging, up-tempo riff that recalls a blend of “I Bleed Black” and “Born Too Late.” “The Bleeding Ground” is a dark dirge that reminded me a lot of “Dying Inside.” “Vertigo” is a rare moment of melodic clarity that acts as a bridge into “Blessed Night” has been a part of the band’s live set for some time and was released as a single earlier this year, and is the most accessible tune on the album. “The Waste of Time” and “Dependence” though feel like the most traditional of Vitus tunes, particularly the latter with its chemical overtones and a set of fuzzy riffs that simply crush. Collectively, LILLIE: F-65 almost works as a concept album when experienced from start to finish, though I don’t believe that’s necessarily the intent. It’s a great set of new material though; you just wish that there was more of it.
My only other beef is with the album’s production; it’s way too clean. I can’t help but think that some extra grit and bottom end would’ve pushed LILLIE: F-65 from sounding “heavy” to sounding “massively heavy.” Random fact of the day: 1992’s CHILDREN OF DOOM was produced by one Mr. Don Dokken. But seriously though, putting my fanboy bitching aside, LILLIE: F-65 is at its core a powerful slab of traditional doom, executed in the way that only Saint Vitus would be capable of pulling off. Welcome back boys, now get on the tour bus.