Saint Vitus, Pallbearer, The Hookers and Gozu at The Middle East, Cambridge MA on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.
If you ask most music fans that came of age in the 80s and 90s who were their favorite bands on SST Records, you’d get peppered with multiple callouts of Black Flag, Minutemen, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, et al before arriving on a mention of Saint Vitus. Ask an average metal fan of that same era and it would be Saint Vitus, followed by silence.
Vitus is every bit as crucial to the label’s history, despite being of a different stripe, and it was a big plus for fans everywhere when Dave Chandler got the classic lineup back in operation a few years ago. Sadly, drummer Armando Acosta passed away a year later, in 2009, but original member Mark Adams and de facto voice of the band Scott “Wino” Weinrich were joined by Henry Vasquez as a replacement on drums. This lineup recorded last year’s return to form Lillie: F-65 and doom metal fans around the world rejoiced. Chandler menacing’s growls and wild-eyed stares perfectly matched his down-tempo chugging, and the completely off-the-hook/what-the-hell-is-he-playing solos were a welcome antidote to the frustrated Yngwie Malmsteen wannabes that roam this metal world. As is the case in Vitus, Wino would leave his guitar in the case, instead leaning on the mic stand and bellowing out the lyrics with one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. The guy’s clearly a metal legend for a reason, and if you’ve not seen him play, fix that immediately. “Born Too Late” capped off a tremendous night of doom, and the words still resonate today with a new generation of metal fans.
Pallbearer got a lot of recognition when Pitchfork named their debut record Sorrow and Extinction as last year’s best metal record, and though they have yet to release a followup, this Arkansas-based doom quartet have not been resting on their laurels. At least half of the set was comprised of new material, with two of the songs so new they don’t even have lyrics. Their music is heavily influenced by classic doom (witness their closer cover of Sabbath’s “Over and Over,” but they are not a paint by the numbers crew, with stately manners and soaring vocals leavening the chest-crushing power of the riffs.
The Hookers were the oddball of the bill, a weird amalgam of hillbilly speed metal and classic rock; picture Zeke holed up in a Kentucky holler with a barrel of rotgut moonshine. Singer Adam Neal (aka The Rock n Roll Outlaw) roamed the stage like a freshly released ex-con, wondering what he could fuck with next. Local heroes Gozu took the stage first, vying for eyeball attention against the Sox/Tigers game that was wrapping up at the same time. Their brand of tight and heavy riffs got people’s attention, with Doug Sherman’s razor-sharp riffs and Swiss watch timing punctuating the tongue in cheek humor of songs like “Signed, Epstein’s Mom.”