Review Summary: Saint Vitus fifth album and last with Scott "Wino" Weinrich holds up to the standards of their monumental classics. Doom or be doomed.
Saint Vitus were one of the most powerful, influential, important and overall excellent doom metal bands of the 80s. From their monumental first era with Scott Reagers on vocals (1979-1986) to the trilogy of albums with Scott "Wino" Weinrich (1986-1991) they released five undeniably classic albums. "V" was their final album with Wino on vocals, and holds up just as strong as classics like their self titled and "Born Too Late".
Saint Vitus' core lineup went unchanged throughout their entire career, centered around the outstanding guitar work David Chandler. His incredibly dull, hazy, fuzzy tone, plodding, downtrodden riffs and noisy flurry of leads created the backbone of their sound. They had three vocalists over the initial span of their career (they have since reformed with Wino back in the roster but have not made any new releases). The most notable of course were Scott Reagers and Scott "Wino" Weinrich". The three Wino albums ("Born Too Late", "Mournful Cries" and "V") are to me an insurmountably excellent trilogy. While most bands falter and fail at experiments with new sounds over the course multiple albums, Saint Vitus could not be deterred in churning out doomy, desperately mournful, hateful and aggressive albums the likes of which no band has since touched.
Unlike the majority of their albums, V contains many shorter more straight up aggressive ditties. While their pace rarely rises above downright plodding, they work in punkier sections that are still quite sluggish compared to most styles of music. As mentioned above, David Chandler's guitar work is really the driving force of the music. His low end, fuzzy, tube amp usin' rhythms sluggishly crawl along with plenty of Black Sabbath-influenced and stonerish bits and pieces, but with a distinctly harsh, disaffected quality that pushes the generally dark themes explored heavily in the Wino albums. While the leads are pretty typically bluesy and rock n rollish stuff, they're very noisy and distinctive, working into the extremely dull and punkishly aggressive tone of the music. The bass has a very dull, dead, plunky sound and generally follows the rhythm of the guitar, although it occasionally works into its own little parts. The drums are played at super sluggish paces and plod along, thudding on the toms and bass drums, and (as you may have guessed) work into their extremely dull and absolutely perfect low fi analog sound.
Scott "Wino" Weinrich's vocals are especially of note (this album and the two preceding it are referred to as the "Wino era", so he must have been bringing something to the table). He has a lower more baritone voice and passionately belts out lyrics concerning hatred, suffering, self-loathing, and alcohol and drug abuse. He has some very angry delivery and a generally down in the gutter "I'm pissed off and miserable about everything" attitude. This works perfectly with the painfully sluggish, harsh and downtrodden sound of the music.
Saint Vitus released several mammoth, outstanding and legendary in the albums in the 1980s, and "V" is no exception. Every aspect of their sound comes together in a big way, making utterly dismal, pounding and sluggish doom with not only an original style but an innovative approach that would influence countless bands after them. The Wino albums include some of my personal favourites ("Born Too Late" being the overall best), and while their albums with Scott Reagers are undeniably classic, I can't say I prefer them to the utter excellence they achieved with Wino. The only drawback I can conceive of with "V" is the acoustic track "When Emotion Dies" with some female singer. It doesn't match the tone of the album at all and is a bit of an annoyance. Some highlights that really make this album stand out to me are the incredibly pissed off anthem to misanthropy "Angry Man" (covered by Grief on their "Miserably Ever After" album) and the sleazy, down and dirty and catchy "Mind-Food". It's not quite at the classic status of "Born Too Late", but "V" is an essential album in the legacy of 80s doom masters Saint Vitus. If you've never heard this outstanding band, get them immediately. They are beyond essential for any doom metal fan. Forget about Trouble and Pentagram, Saint Vitus defines 80s doom.