Sunday, April 21, 2019

Saint Vitus @ Petit Bain, Paris - April 21st, 2019

Black Sabbath have sowed their seed quite extensively and they have quite a number of bastard children that can competently carry the flag of doom-laden, lysergic Metal now that the genre's venerable genitors have thrown in the towel. But out of all of the orphans of Sabbath, perhaps none is more legitimate than California's Saint Vitus, who are celebrating their anniversary with an upcoming self-titled record and a tour poetically christened 40 Fuckin' Years.

But in Metal as in every day life, class struggle informs everything and when Tony Iommi and co. are part of rock music's Aristocracy, Saint Vitus are forever the proletariat. You won't see them rubbing elbows with Sting and Eric Clapton at high-profile coteries like the Queen's jubilee or circle jerks like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Saint Vitus are the Underground. They are the bottom dwellers, the sewer rats, the Heavy Metal lifers who play their heavy, dirty dirges not because it's fashionable ('cause it ain't), not because it's a good living ('cause it ain't) but because it's a way of life.

So inevitably a Saint Vitus concert is going to smell of sweat, skunked beer and adulterated meth. It's going to be loud, it's going to be ugly and it's going beat your ass into submission. The good news is that you're going to have a lot of fun while it does.

Last time I saw Saint Vitus they had U.S. Doom Metal legend Scott "Wino" Weinrich" on vocals and they were touring behind a great new record titled Lillie: F-65, but he has since had to vacate his position because of his struggle with substances. Original bass player Mark Adams has also had to pass the torch because of an ugly degenerative disease we won't even dignify by mentioning here.

So what do you do when half of your membership is sidelined? Do you jump ship, throw in the towel,  decide you're old enough to retire? Not on your fucking life, you don't. You plow through, and in Saint Vitus' case that means getting original frontman Scott Reagers back for a third stint behind the mic and Pat Bruders from Down, Crowbar and Goatwhore to mind the low end.

In full disclosure I was always more of a fan of the Wino era but after last night's epic performance I may have re-think my stance on the issue. Scott Reagers was fantastic on material from all of the band's career, but it was especially cool to hear and see him sing classics from his original tenure like White Magic/Black Magic and Hallow's Victim. His voice was organic and aggressive but even at its more primal it never veered into the tuneless growl a lot of his peers resort to.

The rhythm section of Pat Bruders and Henry Vasquez was relentless, punishing and crushingly heavy. Their playing is the opposite of ornate: it's close to the bone, it's brutal, it's essential and it doesn't fuck around.

And then there's Dave Chandler, the Guardian of the Temple, purveyor of evil riffs and mind-bending solos. Yngwie Malmsteen he ain't. He's more like the Keith Richards of Underground Metal: a Spartan, mythical, mystical figure; half man, half beast; the black heart and the twisted soul of the band.

It must be quite frustrating for a band to be playing so many songs from an album that has yet to be released (I think I counted as many as five) but the audience didn't discriminate: a killer jam is a killer jam whether it's a forty year-old classic or a song you're hearing for the first time. And that is a testament to the crowd as much as to the band. Only in that genre will you encounter a fan base that is willing to treat new, unknown songs with the same respect as old warhorses.

This wasn't lost on the band: after a rabid last song entitled Useless, which will appear on the next record and betrays their old-school hardcore roots of the SST days, they came out to have beers with the people in the venue, breaking down the barrier between artists and fans like they've always done. The reason people respond to them is not because they play, write or sing better than us. It's not because they're better than us or more famous thanks us. It's because, like us, they want to bang their heads, get loaded, listen to loud music and party like there's not tomorrow, because if Doom Metal has taught us one thing is that there most likely won't be.

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