Saint Vitus — Mournful Cries [Doom Metal, Review]
Today we will take a look at the classic fourth album by American pioneering doom-metal legend Saint Vitus. The album, released in 1988, is titled “Mournful Cries”. The lineup consisted of Dave Chandler on guitars and also responsible for song-writing, Mark Adams on the bass, Armando Acosta on drums and Scott “Wino” Weinrich on vocals. The album perfectly blends dark existential themes of life with a more of a dark-fantasy lyrical approach. Musically it is solid and heavy-hitting blues-tinged traditional doom metal. The sound production of the album is typical for the doom scene of the late 80s.
It opens with a faster song «The Creeps», a composition which serves the same purpose as Black Sabbath’s «Paranoid» on their second album, it is a fast-paced hit. It opens the album with a more proto-punk hard rock side, which Saint Vitus is known for.
What follows next is one of the best songs in the band’s catalog and on this album. The dark epic song Dragon Time. Unlike the more heroic fantasy lyrics of early power metal bands this is a dark-medieval ballad. With great guitar work by Chandler and Weinrich. Wino’s vocals sound almost bard-like, while staying within the heavy metal genre. The song is one of the more melodic compositions by Vitus. The guitars set the mood for a gloomy legend to be told. It is a story of a Dragon (clearly a metaphor for Death) brining havoc to a village.
«It’s dragon’s time in the village tonight People screaming filled with fright No way to save their simple homes Dragon’s breath is burning bright Lighting up the darkest night Leaving desolation all around»
The three-headed hydra — dragon — is depicted on the cover of the album, which illustrates dark-fantasy themes of the lyrics.
It is interesting to note how different is the doom metal approach to fantasy-lyrics compared to the more heroic and optimistic lyrics of the power and heavy scene. There is no Savior or Hero like figure to be seen in
the text, only death and destruction. Where once was a village, now lies a burning ruin.
Next, we come to a more existential themes Saint Vitus is known for. The catchy dirge of “Shooting Gallery” paints a picture of the world similar to the poetic works of Charles Bukowski. Realistic, honest and brutal yet no nihilistic but rather sad. Like Bukowski Saint Vitus for a long time where more popular in Europe than the US before becoming a cult phenomenon in their home country.
The song tells of the self-destructive tendencies present in human beings. It is a requiem for a lost friend.
“Poison disease, eating through their minds They will never see the end of the line I will never understand why they do it to themselves Why they choose a life that so resembles Hell
Now I stand in pouring rain At a friend’s funeral again Tears fill my eyes He lived a tortured life And as I walk away I see another stray Stumbling down the street It seems so sad to me”
Next comes «Bitter Truth» opening with a sad acoustic intro that would not be out of place in a Townes Van Zandt’s album, then it quickly transforms into a catchy dark mid-tempo composition. The guitar work sounds a bit psychedelic, especially the solo near the end. The lyrics talk about pure existential dread.
“I knew a man, I ‘m proud to say But he couldn’t live in a world he couldn’t see The laws of life, it ‘s ways are cold Hidden patterns genetic mold
No one seemed to know for sure A knowing look of falling to death ‘s door
Living unreal, time is to steal Booking passage on a journey unknown”
«The Troll» is a slower semi-funeral paced song. The riff is simple and bleak yet very effective. The lyric brings the fantasy allegorical themes together with the themes of social isolation. The Troll is a social outcast. A tragic figure rejected by society and living on its fringes. To the point where a mythical Troll is the best description for such a life.
«I’ve been down so long, I cannot see Any way out of me
I live under rocks and under stones That’s where I spend my time alone
People don’t know I exist Their company is never missed I never see the light of day Somehow that don’t bother me
Nothing ever changes I gave up trying»
The album closes with the slow bluesy «Looking Glass». Again, an example of the slow classic Vitus riffing. Wino sings about how one should paradoxically aim for the light in a gloomy world. This song is not preachy, but rather honest. It is about doing the right thing even if the odds are against you. Being true to your identity.
“You know what’s right, and you know that kindness can It’s a mental fight and the winner is a man Open your eyes, shake your head Raise your body from the dead Cold gray haze will never stay Don’t ever let’em take your strength away”
This is a spark of light in the dark of the canvas of “Mournful Cries”.
Overall the album, while short, is very coherent and works as a whole where the sum of it is bigger than the parts. What makes Saint Vitus such a powerhouse in the doom scene? It is the pure raw authenticity of their message and the dark atmosphere they create with their minimalistic
riffing. When you listen to Mournful Cries — the record can bring you emotions which many more complex and well produced modern records simply fail to achieve.
by Anton “Vargtimmen” Bryukov