Saint Vitus Dance Of Doom Snow Blinds Austin, Texas
Doom metal pioneers Saint Vitus returned to the state capital of Texas. Earlier in the year, the cult icons played SXSW as part of the “Metal Alliance Tour” with Helmet, Crowbar and other masters of the down beat. Many of the group’s hardcore fans, however, were shunned by SXSW in lieu of badge and wristband holders. St. Vitus original and hippie prototype, guitarist Dave Chandler cursed SXSW in between a song, confessing his displeasure with SX’s unfair practice. August 20, 2011 went down as a night not for industry elitists, but for true fans of stoner/doom and rock-n-roll in general.
Sabbath still provides, at least, a base for all hard rock/heavy metal bands of today. Some bands owe their entire existence to Black Sabbath. In fact, so many of these bands exist, even 40 years after the birth of Sabbath, that we have categories for these bands. Still, these bands seem a small part of the metal contingency when compared to the masses of black and death metal bands. In a town known for death metal blast beats and machine-gun-delivered punk vocals, it was nice to finally slow down the tempo.
While figure heads of the doom and stoner/doom movement, Saint Vitus deservedly took the lead, Austin’s masters of slow banging rounded at a lineup that was true to fans of this style. Mala Suerte came up first. These guys have a huge sound that borrows heavily from Sabbath and Cathedral, although they create tones with harshness owing to sludge. Singer Gary Rosas possesses a Lee Dorian-type stage swagger, dancing around the stage like an enthralled Dionysus follower. The group played a five-song set that elicited a strong crowd response.
Cyclopean Records artist, The Roller has become the most recognized doom act in Austin. It’s a shame this performance was their last. The Roller portrayed elements of their stage predecessors, playing really catching and uncompromisingly heavy songs. However, the vocals and their speed offered a different take on the night’s theme. The Roller’s vocals were on the screechy side, which also brings to mind the screamed tones of sludge. When sweeping, repeated tremolo guitar notes appeared, these vocals took on a blackened disposition. I would have preferred cleaner vocals tones, but The Roller put on good performance that resonated with the audience.
Dixie Witch provided direct support for Saint Vitus. While The Roller has the distinction of being Austin’s doom metal group of greatest acclaim; Dixie Witch is the town’s most visible stoner rock act (next to The Sword), and a national power house. The eleven-year-old Dixie Witch played a brand of uplifting, energetic rock adhering to the spirit of late ‘70s classic rock. The group jammed big hooks with a southern flair that brought to mind a greasy knuckled Kiss. Dixie Witch is one of those rare bands with a singer who also plays drums. Drummer/vocalist Trinidad placed his colorful drum kit right up front, which makes sense because who wants to see the singer in the back? Dixie Witch was fun and added another dimension to the lineup, although I would have preferred the somber sounds of depressive doom.
Saint Vitus took the stage in full-on jam mode. Henry Vasquez started a drum roll that would make Bill Ward proud, while Dave Chandler literally kick-started the set with downed-electric-line-whipping, psychedelic pedal effects that start “Clear Windowpane.” His manipulation of the airwaves clearly conveyed the hallucinogenic properties of said song, and left tracers of Hawkwind throughout the set. The new track “Blessed Night” was another track that sucked the audience into an electrified vortex.
Drug use and abuse is a common topic that appeared during much of their set, taking a darker stance with songs that condemn drug use. On “Dying Inside,” another track from Wino’s SV debut “Born Too Late,” Wino lamented with a grief-filled countenance, “I have got to chance my ways/’Cause I’m losing my mind/I have got to stop drinking/’Cause I’m dying inside.” “I Bleed Black” from the “V” album was a hymn for the needle freak. Both tracks feature the slow, misery-laden chord work that Black Sabbath defined with their title track.
Saint Vitus played a set mostly culled from their back catalogue. According to bassist, Mark Adams, their set included the classics that they always play. The last three songs were those that made the band (relatively) famous. After playing an inspiring “St. Vitus,” the group left the stage and then returned for an encore of “Dying Inside” and “Born Too Late.” “Born Too Late” was a sixteen-minute jam session that retired the evening. During this song, Chandler played his guitar behind his head and with his mouth. Long after the song finished, his guitar continued wailing feedback. The audience didn’t know whether to leave or stay and witness something spectacular. They surely witnessed something spectacular on so many levels!
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