Saint Vitus - LIVE: Heaven, London 2014

35th Anniversary Tour
October 29 (21:45 - 23:00)
Capacity 1800

For doom metal institution Saint Vitus, 2014 represents 35 years since they formed in Los Angeles in 1979, which was coincidentally also the year Heaven, one of London's oldest gay nightclubs and the unlikely venue for this stop of their celebratory tour, opened. Obvious, really.

Residing in the railway arches under Charring Cross Station, the dark, cavernous nature of the club is perfectly suited to live music, providing quite excellent acoustics, but also meaning that bands can end up being absurdly loud if they're not careful. Such was the case with local openers Serpent Venom, touring their superb new album Of Things Seen & Unseen, who had so much bass in their mix that Roland Scriver's guitar sounded like a distorted bass when unaccompanied.

Tour co-headliners Orange Goblin dialled things down a little, perhaps after witnessing Serpent Venom's deafening set, and delivered a typically energetic set which managed to combine standards, rarities, and new songs perfectly. Between tracks from new album Back From The Abyss and classics like Quincy The Pigboy they reached all the way back to debut album Frequencies From Planet Ten for the brilliant Saruman's Wish, showing that those days are still amongst their creative best. Front-man Ben Ward did his best to engage the crowd from the strangely high stage, making the big man seem a long way away from everyone, and their hometown advantage meant they enjoyed the biggest crowd of the night.

When Saint Vitus started playing it was immediately obvious they had worked out the correct volume levels for the venue, as they enjoyed far greater sound clarity than either of the bands before them. The high, narrow stage didn't really pose much of a problem for them as they aren't really a crowd interaction kind of band anyway (besides a constantly gurning Dave Chandler), and the declared promise of a full run-through of their seminal 1986 album Born Too Late, their first with current singer Scott "Wino" Weinrich, had every Vitus fan in the room excited.

That album actually arrived in reverse order (so that they could finish with the classic title track), and was preceded by a five-song selection from other Wino-fronted albums, including two from newest offering Lillie: F-65, plus one which pre-dated his time in the band, White Stallions. Those suitably whetted everyone's appetite to the point where, besides Born Too Late itself, The War Starter, signalling the start of the album play-through, got the biggest cheer of the night. All the while Chandler, one of the only players who can make messy, feedback-laden guitar solos a thing of beauty, more often being the centre of attention than front-man Wino.

Despite being the more significant band, and putting on the better performance, it was easy to see that the crowd visibly thinned during their set, as those specifically there for Orange Goblin - the much trendier band with London metal fans - drifted away. But those who stayed were treated to a masterclass in classic doom metal. And the whole night went off with only one joke about the venue (Ben Ward before Heavy Lies The Crown, "Let me feel the Viking warrior inside you! Probably the wrong thing to say in this place.")

“ far greater sound clarity ”

Serpent Venom setlist: The Penance You Pay / Devilshire / Death Throes At Dawn / Sorrow's Bastard

Orange Goblin setlist: Scorpionica / Acid Trial / Saruman's Wish / Sabbath Hex / Heavy Lies The Crown / Blue Snow / Cities of Frost / Into The Arms of Morpheus / The Devil's Whip / The Fog / They Come Back (Harvest of Skulls) / Quincy The Pigboy / Red Tide Rising

Saint Vitus setlist: Living Backwards / I Bleed Black / Blessed Night / Let Them Fall / White Stallions / The Troll / The War Starter / The Lost Feeling / H.A.A.G. / Dying Inside / Clear Windowpane / Born Too Late // Saint Vitus

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2014, Doom Metal, Gigs,

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