Saint Vitus was one of the first doom metal bands I got into. They were one of the gateways into the genre for me. The original line-up with singer Scott Reagers was the version of the band that I always leaned toward. Don’t get me wrong, I like Wino, but Mr. Reagers’ voice was so uniquely eerie and theatrical. After the band broke up twenty years ago, Scott Reagers completely left the music business. I thought I would never be able to see him live with Vitus, but here we are. He rejoined the band last year on a European tour, and now it’s time for North America to get some of that original Vitus goodness. Along with touring partners The Skull and Witch Mountain and local opener Crypt Sermon, this was poised to be an unabashed DOOM metal show.
Up first was Philly-local epic doomers Crypt Sermon. I saw them at Psycho Las Vegas just over a month ago, but I had no problem witnessing them multiple times in a short proximity. They simply continue to entertain each time I see them. Frontman Brooks Wilson is such a joy to watch. He gets really into it, waving his hands about and wailing his operatic vocals. I’ve said it too many times, but “Byzantium” shines more and more with every set they do. It’s magnificent and exulted. I can’t wait to see what the guys come up with next.
Next was Witch Mountain, a staple in the doom genre. They were also at Psycho, but I missed them. I never really got into the band; I heard a few songs here and there, but wasn’t hooked. I gave them another chance and watched a video from their Psycho performance, and they won me over. Their new singer Kayla Dixon has some serious pipes and she definitely gives their older material a shot in the arm. The way she switches from clean singing to growling is flawless, nailing both ends of the spectrum. She gave the audience intense stares constantly, looking at people dead in the eyes. Their opening track “Psycho Animundi” was particularity exquisite, I dug the relentless groove. I look forward to their inevitable upcoming album.
The Skull, formed by members of doom pioneers Trouble were next. Again like Witch Mountain, I never quite got into them. There were some songs here and there that I liked, but I was never a fanatic. Listening to the group in preparation for the show, I gained more of an appreciation for them. They played a mix of newer songs and Trouble covers. Vocalist Eric Wagner had this certain presence to him. Smoking three cigarettes throughout the set, he had a very nonchalant attitude, as if he’s been doing this for millennia. His bass voice and Axl Rose-esque falsetto were still intact decades later. “For Those Which are Asleep” has a driving acoustic build up, ending with a punch to the gut. They finished with “At the End of my Daze” and “The Tempter,” both classic Trouble songs. Their set emphasized the psychedelic angle of the material. Another band that I’ve seen live that I need to look into more.
After three heavy-hitters, Saint Vitus came on to finish what was started. They started with two numbers from their often forgotten Die Healing album. Not the best of their material, but they turned me on to “One Mind”. I was concerned about Scott’s voice. It had been many years since he’d performed, I wasn’t sure if he still had the vocal chops. But holy shit, he sounded as great as ever. During “White Stallions,” I was thinking “wow, they sound exactly like they did nearly 40 years ago with almost the same line-up.” How many other bands can say that? He is such a wonderful frontman, having a ball on stage, and really blasting out his remarkable voice to the max.
The band’s set list was like well-picked fruit. It contained most of their first album (my favorite of theirs), a few selections from the other two Reagers albums, “Born Too Late,” and even “Fear” off of their even more forgotten album C.O.D., which featured Christian Linderson of Count Raven and Lord Vicar on vocals. Their fast-paced songs were just as excellent as their slow and low hitters, really balancing out their set well. “White Stallions” and “Saint Vitus” were crazy headbangers, while “Zombie Hunger” and “Burial at Sea” obliterated like a nuclear bomb. The later is my favorite Vitus song. The sheer intensity of the main riff in combination with Reagers’ manic delivery was a real treat.
Wino was in attendance at the show. When I saw him, I thought “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if he went up on stage for a “Born Too Late” duet?” I dismissed that as wishful thinking at first, but then it literally happened. Scott Reagers and Scott “Wino” Weinrich shared the stage for “Born Too Late” and it was simply beautiful. Seeing both frontmen of Vitus trade and share the mic was a dream come true. Wino was hanging out at the sidestage a lot of the time, seeming to not want to steal the show. It just makes me wish that both men were singers for the band at the same time. They could perform some of the strangest harmonies on all the songs.
All four bands of this show had singers who do not play instruments on stage. I came to understand the importance of that. It allows them to be more mobile on stage, showing the audience their full personality. They can be more participatory with the crowd and more theatrical. Ronnie James Dio used to play the bass, but hung it up while in Elf, not too long before his time in Rainbow. Wouldn’t it have been weird to see Dio play bass on stage? Not to diss vocalists who do play instruments on stage, but there’s something special about a boundless singer who owns the stage.
This was one of the best shows I’ve been to, and I really want to see Vitus again and I really hope they make another album with this line-up. Long live Saint Vitus! \m/