Saint Vitus - Born Too Late LP
Born Too Late is undeniably a defining effort in the spirit of the early, now considered "classic" doom metal sound. The marriage of vocalist Scott "Wino" Weinrich, founder of Maryland's D.C. area legends the Obsessed and L.A.'s own legendary doom pioneers Saint Vitus, produced a sound and lyrical landscape that was not commercially successful in its own right, but which has inspired and continues to influence myriad popular culture figures such as the Melvins, Nirvana, L7, Fugazi's Ian McKay, Black Flag's Greg Ginn (owner of SST, Saint Vitus' label) and Henry Rollins, Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, Grief, Sleep, Cruevo, and a list of bands, musicians, and genres too long to list without writing a novel. Long after Black Sabbath had shifted their sound away from the bombastic, sludgy riffing of classics like Paranoid, Masters of Reality, Vol. 4, and the like, Saint Vitus and the Obsessed rose from regions that were birthplaces and breeding grounds for early-American hardcore punk. While identifying intensely with the independent and socially critical nature of those scenes, Saint Vitus's sound was deeply rooted in the gloomy ballistics of early Sabbath. Born Too Late's sludgy, ultra-slow riffs never break out into the galloping rhythms of, say, "Children of the Grave," however. This album is like Black Sabbath on Quaaludes and wearing lead suits underwater. Each chord rains down like a hammer, and each progression takes an eternity to resolve. In the early '80s, while everyone in the pop music culture was looking for the new sound, be it new wave or hardcore, Saint Vitus were decidedly retro. You don't even need more than the name of the album's title track, "Born Too Late," to get the point. But Wino drives it home anyway, with the lines "every time I'm on the street/people laugh and point at me/they talk about my length of hair/and the out of date clothes I wear." The lyrics go on to point out that while "they say [his] songs are much too slow," they also "don't know the things [he] knows." That's for sure. Before almost anyone else had even realized that rock was on its death bed, Saint Vitus were looking back on the '70s with nostalgia. Throughout, the album is what might be considered a cliched retrospective of that bygone era's heavy metal sentiments. Dragons, psychedelic drugs, images of war, and severe alcohol abuse dominate the landscape. The most important consideration with this album, though, is not the originality of the approach. What separates Born Too Late from nearly all heavy metal up to that point was the outright admission that the band's passion - slow, heavy music - not only lacked commercial viability, but was in fact itself a source of the ridicule and social alienation the music speaks to. The punk rock style integrity of the band's commitment to that sound and image was in direct opposition to the money and chicks attitude of L.A. glam metal of the day. While the impact Saint Vitus made with Born Too Late at the time was minimal, the legacy of that early dedication has influenced and changed the world of music. For all fans of grunge, stoner rock, and doom metal, this album is a classic.