Tuesday, September 10, 2013

... …Come ye faithful, meet thy maker: SAINT VITUS – ‘C.O.D.’ (Reissue)

Saint Vitus’ seemingly misunderstood and long out-of-print sixth full-length, ‘C.O.D.’, has finally been dug up, dragged from its grave, and remastered and reanimated with the addition of two lost tracks courtesy of Season of Mist. Maligned by many—including main songwriter Dave Chandler—and revered by few, ‘C.O.D.’ is clearly the black sheep of the Saint Vitus discography, an outlier that has divided fans and critics from its inception. And sure, the one-off effort with Chritus Linderson at the mic is distinguished from the band’s prior work due to a step-up in the production department and a playing time that essentially dwarfs their other releases, ‘C.O.D.’ is nevertheless a masterpiece in its own right and an album whose “failure” ultimately paved the way for the reunion with original vocalist Scott Reagers and the recording of the band’s magnum opus ‘Die Healing’. But make no mistake…‘C.O.D.’ rocks and it rocks fucking hard.
Remastered or not, ‘C.O.D.’ has always sounded great. While the leap in production value from ‘V’ to ‘C.O.D’ is apparent, the band hardly transitioned to a clean, radio-friendly polish. Chandler’s guitar still rips and his solos claw and leave marks all over the album accompanied by Mark Adams’ doom-as-fuck basslines.  Probably the most noticeable improvement over the band’s previous albums is the sound of the drums. Acosta’s drums are heavier and more prominent in the mix which lends an unprecedented barbarian heft to the twelve tracks of the album proper. Few bands have so effortlessly transitioned from vocalist-to-vocalist as Saint Vitus and the standalone release featuring Linderson is arguably one of the band’s finest.
With over an hour’s worth of doom-and-gloom ‘C.O.D.’ covers a lot of ground and includes many of Saint Vitus’ most memorable and unique tracks. Following a brief and moody intro is the anthemic call to arms “Children of Doom”. Here Chandler’s guitar bleeds and wails throughout the track while Linderson presides over his flock of lost souls while reciting the riddle of doom. The third track, “Planet of Judgement”, has the lone distinction of being credited to the entire band with words penned by Linderson and Acosta. Not to dismiss the individual songwriting talents of Chandler, but “Planet of Judgement” is easily one of the band’s strongest tracks.  The main impact of “Planet of Judgement” not only comes from Chandler’s memorable riffs and mind-bending leads, but also from Linderson’s vocal melodies. The shift from an atonal, riff-following pattern to a forlorn, emotional delivery on the latter half of the track leaves a haunting and indelible impression on the listener. Other greats such as the hard rocker “Shadow of a Skeleton”, the woeful crawl of “Plague of Man”, and the Joy Division-esque “Get Away” have never sounded better.
As an added bonus the reissue of ‘C.O.D.’ includes two bonus tracks, “To Breed a Soldier” and “The Chameleon”. The two tracks, originally recorded as demos for the follow-up to ‘C.O.D.’, give a glimpse into what could have been had things worked out between Chandler, Linderson, and their label at the time. Production-wise the two tracks are understandably rougher than the rest of ‘C.O.D.’ and the vocals of Linderson are more dynamic and consistent with his later work with Lord Vicar and Goatess. Chandler hasn’t missed a beat on these unearthed tracks as he seems to strangle the life from his protesting guitar on the squalling, fuzz-drenched lead of “To Breed a Soldier”. “The Chameleon” is classic, mid-paced Vitus that also features Chandler’s signature wah abuse and the solid rhythm section of Adams and Acosta.
The re-release of ‘C.O.D.’ has been long overdue and Season of Mist has done an amazing job. The inclusion of two bonus tracks simply sweetens the deal. Personal preference in regards to vocalists within the Saint Vitus discography will always be a point of contention, but I find the Chritus-era to be second only to the band’s output with Scott Reagers. It’s too bad that Linderson’s tenure began and ended with ‘C.O.D.’, though his further involvement may have irreversibly altered the band’s trajectory thus depriving the masses of the excellent ‘Die Healing’ album.
Words : Steve Miller

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