RETRO TUESDAYS: Saint Vitus – Die Healing (1995)

As a kid my brother’s uninformed and admittedly random purchases from metal and punk mail-order distros often ended up being small treasures that shaped my early impressions of metal. Sure, the distro ad was from an issue of Metal Edge as they desperately clung to the already dying hair metal days and the cover read like a Tiger Beat for glam… Actually, every goddamn issue seemed to have Jani Lane on it for whatever reason and he was hideous even by glam boi standards… Anyhow, I convinced my brother, who was looking for “stuff like Slayer and Morbid Angel”, to buy Saint Vitus‘ ‘Live’ because, well I was sure that they were heavy and fast based on their logo. Of course he hated it, at that point (1992) he was all in on death metal and dumped everything from Crowbar to Suicidal Tendencies in my room and told me to fuck off with it.

Saint Vitus was a strange gateway for me at ten years old and their music was one of the few things that held up to my odd obsession with Black Sabbath‘s ‘Master of Reality’ as well as Black Flag‘s ‘My War’, both of which continue to this day. Where I was previously sure that Wino was amazing after listening to ‘Live’ and ‘Born Too Late’ nearly a hundred times, it would be almost another decade before I discovered Saint Vitus’ albums with Scott Reagers and quickly changed my tune. The true St. Vitus, for my taste, resides within the albums with Reagers’ powerful, distinct vocal delivery. ‘Die Healing’ was the band’s original swan song as they circled back around to Reagers’ distinct voice after burning through Wino (The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan) and Chritus (Terra Firma, Lord Vicar) for four albums.

Without ‘Die Healing’ as a highlight, I don’t think I would see Vitus’ career as much more than an inconsistent downward spiral with a few important blips near the start. It captures the existential dread and disillusioned yarn of ‘Born Too Late’ along with the dragon-chasing fantasy of their 1984 self-titled debut. Dave Chandler’s droning guitar work has never been captured so perfectly with the soured funk of 1986 liberally fuzzed out amid his pick-scraping and wah-pedal wailing drowned in a sea of unrepentant gloom. His work on “Dark World”, “Trail of Pestilence” and the sludge metal standard bearer “Sloth” are absolutely an incredible peak for doom metal guitar expression. “Let the End Begin” is, for me, the ultimate culmination of everything Saint Vitus’ original line-up does best.

Having to justify why I feel any one album as the ‘best’ album within that sub-genre of all time usually requires a hefty amount of time questioning my choices and mulling over thousands of options but when I think of doom metal it has been ‘Die Healing’ for greatest of all time and that opinion has largely held up for me over the last twenty years or so. Next to nothing better sums up what doom was, what doom metal still is, and there is no better standard bearer that holds up to the test of time than ‘Die Healing’. I hear these riffs in everything from sludge/crust to death metal and modern doom to this day.

Artist Saint Vitus
Type Album
Released May 9, 1995
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Cries of anguish. 5.0/5.0

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