Review Summary: The soundtrack of the apocalypse...
By the time Saint Vitus had released its seventh album, "Die Healing" in 1995, the band had begun facing a sharp decline in their already minimal popularity after the release of the divisive "C.O.D" album featuring Chritus Linderson (of Count Raven and Lord Vicar fame) on vocals. The album divided fans and was mostly ignored by critics overall, and with the band in flux since the departure pf Scott "Wino" Weinrich a few years priors in addition to rising popularity of the grunge movement of the time, Saint Vitus was beginning to be viewed as a "dinosaur" by those who knew of the band's existence. With no clear-cut path forward due to a deck of criticism and irrelevance being stacked against them, Saint Vitus decided to record and release a final album (at the time) and brought back original vocalist, Scott Reagers for "Die Healing". Upon its release, the band went on a short tour that included many dates in Europe, with bootleg recordings that can be found online of their live performances at this time, until finally breaking up at the end of the tour. As a swansong, "Die Healing" is a phenomenal album that can stack up against any other release by the band and stands as one of the finest hours in the doom metal sub-genre.
Upon reviewing this album, I feel as if a special portion of this review should cover the vocalist of "Die Healing", Scott Reagers. Reagers is a very unique vocalist that one will either love or hate. His vocal delivery is unique in the sense that he sounds like a lunatic in a mental asylum, but even this brief description doesn't do his delivery justice. I can say with the utmost certainty that I have never heard another vocalist that sounds anywhere near similar to Reagers and his stylized vocals are a shocking delight to listen to as he rotates from singing normally, to doing a combination of a growl and scream, and exasperated vocals that make it seem like a madman being sedated during an episode of ranting. With this in mind, when listening to the album for the first time, go into it with an open mind and expect something different if you have not heard Reagers's earlier work in Saint Vitus before (which I also highly recommend).
Now onto the album at hand, it is clear throughout listening that this is the best-produced album in the Saint Vitus discography in that it is the album most reminiscent of the "doom metal sound" as the instrument work is the heaviest and most plodding work that the band has ever done. While Reagers is the main highlight of the album, special props must be given to guitarist Dave Chandler as his playing on this album is among his best overall performances from the slow-infectious riffs of "Dark World", "Let The End Begin", and "Trail of Pestilence" to the erratic shredding on "Just Another Notch", which happens to be the only song on the album that Chandler handles vocal duties on. Bassist Mark Adams and drummer Armando Acosta (R.I.P) add to the dreary and somber mood of the album as Adams follows along with Chandler on most of the songs to add strength to the riffs Chandler plays in a similar fashion to Geezer Butler following the riffs of Tony Iommi on the early Black Sabbath albums. Acosta is a more independent player than Adams as he does follow the riff in a way also, but his galloping fills and unique drumming add a more chaotic backbone to the songs. With the alliance among the band members, Saint Vitus took the individual chaotic styles of their band members and made a concentrated effort of chaos that acts as a statement that would read like the ramblings on Jack Torrence's typewriter.
The album starts with two songs in moderate length with opener "Dark World" being an excellent introduction to the album with a main riff that creates an image of a barren landscape, or dark world if you will that plods on as Reagers acts as the sole voice in a desolate land driven made by the lack of life around him that seems like a fitting parallel to the graveyard featured on the cover of the album. Following is the main single of the album "One Mind", which featured a music video that was kind of lame, but the song itself is awesome as once again, Reagers owns the track with his bipolar singing of the repeated line "no one understands your mind" while Chandler and Adams create a combined riff that is on the verge of falling apart through its unhinged and wobbly sound.
While the album starts off magnificently, there are some weaker tracks on the album when comparing to others. Although I do like the main riff of "Trail of Pestilence", the song is very redundant and really does not go anywhere in the five minute run-time given to it. Once you have heard the first minute or so of the song, then you've pretty much heard the entire thing because it truly is a repetitive track that even makes Reagers seem boring, which truly is an accomplishment, but for the wrong reason. "Return of the Zombie" suffers for similar reasons as it is another unmemorable song that is too repetitive for its own good. While both of these songs are repetitive, I would not go as far to say that they are bad songs, rather mediocre ones especially in comparison to the other tracks to be found here.
On the other hand, the closing track, "Just Another Notch" is not one of my favorite songs off of the album because it is repetitive, rather it is a song so strange that I cannot really wrap my head around it. Reagers himself may add oddness to numerous songs, but it is quite shocking that the most bizarre song on the album comes from the song with no involvement from Reagers. As mentioned earlier, Chandler handles vocal duties on the track and delivers a Reagers-like performance that involves some maniacal laughing, banter to an unknown person that could even be himself for all the listener knows, and trippy vocals that try to relax the listener, but just break out into more chaos all while Chandler is shredding his guitar in the background. I don't know if I love or hate this song, but I would lean towards loving it because of how strange and chaotic the thing is.
Finally, "Die Healing" contains three songs that can be considered the "epics" of the album. To start with "Sloth", the song clocks in at over eight minutes and consists of the silly concept of a giant sloth that ought to be feared by many. These lyrics are quite silly, but charming in the way that Reagers delivers them with such vitality and passion. Lines such as "Beeewaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrre the sloth" should be laughable and somewhat are, but Reagers says the line with such dedication and awareness in his voice that it cannot be helped but to join in with singing the chorus as it is a truly catchy and entertaining song. The second epic "In the Asylum" is the most insane Reagers performance on the album. The song naturally involves the inner-workings of a mental asylum and Reagers himself sounds like the patient describing the facility. As he shrieks "THERE'S NO WAY OUT" and talks about topics ranging from medications to electroshock therapy, Reagers's bombastic delivery is so out of control that the listener begins to believe that he has undergone the terrors described throughout the song and the terror ends with Reagers decreeing "Once you're in, there's no way out, of the asylum" as Chandler continuously plays a riff that sets the atmosphere of terror and hopelessness describing the titular asylum. The final epic that is to be discussed is my personal favorite song on the album "Let The End Begin", which I would say is also my favorite Saint Vitus song. As usual, Reagers delivers an outstanding performance, but this time talks about being death himself and the victims of death who are both brought together by their common desire for death. The main riff on this song is on the best I have heard in any song ever period. It is the equivalent of a suburb being leveled in its sheer heaviness. My personal favorite part of the song is when Chandler begins to perform an awesome guitar solo in the middle of the song that gradually fades out with fuzz overtaking the solo, and then the main riff crushes its way back into the song. An amazing song that should be near the absolute pinnacle of the doom metal sub-genre.
In conclusion, "Die Healing" was a perfect swansong to the career of Saint Vitus that eventually revived in the early-2000's with the return of Scott Weinrich on vocals that led to a successor to "Die Healing", but nowhere near as good. Recently, Wino left Saint Vitus again to reform his old band "The Obsessed", which opened the door to Scott Reagers returning to the band in recent years, but with little material from "Die Healing" played live in comparison to his earlier works in the band. Overall, "Die Healing" is a unique oddity of an album that truly sounds like nothing I have ever heard before in that it sounds like the soundtrack of the apocalypse. If that's not "metal", then what is?