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Saint Vitus - Hallow's Victim LP


SST Records

Contrary to what most first-time listeners might expect based on the band's reputation as American doom pioneers, Saint Vitus were hardly all about indolence and sloth when it came to their songwriting. In reality, most every one of their albums contained a few fast-paced numbers, geared to getting their fans' blood pumping and heads banging, but 1985's sophomore effort, Hallow's Victim, was entirely off the charts in this regard. Stacking high-energy metal anthems pretty much from start to finish, it's almost as if the bandmembers were intentionally thumbing their noses at the dominant thrash metal craze of the period with this album, while seeking to prove that they weren't just a bunch of long-in-the-tooth SoCal hippies in the bargain. Nothing could have been further from the truth, obviously, as Hallow's Victim opened with the hard-driving, oft-covered classic "War Is Our Destiny," broke into an all-out gallop for the aptly named "White Stallions," and then rarely stopped for breath during ensuing heavy metal juggernauts like "The Sadist" and the pummeling title track, which, for all intents and purposes, could well be considered straight-up hardcore, and was probably influenced by Vitus' labelmates at SST. The band finally relented from its frantic stride to establish a gothic mid-paced groove on "Just Friends (Empty Love)" -- very reminiscent of cross-country rivals Pentagram -- and then settled down into some sluggish doom, at last, for the epic "Mystic Lady" and sardonic album closer, "Prayer for the (M)asses," although even this generally sludgy tandem frequently launched into a good trot before too long. In the end, Hallow's Victim is an eye-opening experience for those who would typecast Saint Vitus as a strictly doom-dependent enterprise, and its first-rate songs throughout offer proof positive of the band's formidable creative abilities -- regardless of tempo. Yes, doom purists may point out, correctly, that this album is unrepresentative of both the genre and Saint Vitus' body of work in general, but who would dare cast the first stone, considering that even Black Sabbath wrote speedy songs like "Paranoid" and "Never Say Die" -- remember?