"Born Too Late," the title track off of the group's 1987 SST release (and the first Vitus record featuring Wino on vocals), expresses the genre's sense of temporal exile. The verse deals with this disjoint on a surface level — the hypothetical peanut gallery hassles Wino over his long hair and clothes — but behind the sartorial concerns, there's something gripping about the band's conception of its place in time. The main chord progression is the kind of tough, three-power-chord stomp we've heard hundreds of times before in heavy rock, yet Dave Chandler allows each of the foreboding chords to linger, reverberating against the persistent low-end and metronome drumming, treating his SG like a monstrous 500-year-old pipe organ in the process. The riff is played with a cumulative power, repeatedly driving the chord progression into the song's landscape; as one chord dissociates, another materializes to take its place. Wino howls that he was born too late, that he'll never be like you; the last syllable devolves into an abstract growl, and Chandler annihilates the history of the song with an atonal, dive bomb solo.
While "Born Too Late" may have become the unofficial anthem of both Saint Vitus and perhaps the whole doom metal sensibility, "Living Backwards," the opening track on its less famous but still awesome V (Hellhound, 1989), further articulates this nebulous relationship with time. Is the band moving backward through looking ahead, creating the forward momentum through facing backwards? Or, like the paradoxical title, does the band's obsessive cycling back to metal's origin point roll the group forward into the avant garde terrain of '80s underground rock? Not incidentally, "Living Backwards" is probably Saint Vitus' most driving song.
Of the three acts opening for Saint Vitus on its upcoming date at the DNA Lounge, Saviours' music articulates this strange relationship to past and future in some of the most exciting ways. (Also on the bill are subtle, unsettling funeral doom masters Laudanum and Dusted Angel, a stony five-piece featuring members of Vitus' SST Records contemporaries Bl'ast!.) Though by no means entrenched in the tradition of glacial, cavernous riffing, Saviours' historically savvy songwriting approach picks up from the backward-facing cycles that wheeled Saint Vitus into new creative terrain.
Saviours' most recent release, Accelerated Living (Kemado, 2009) is damn close to being the perfect heavy metal record, an overgrown wilderness of exceedingly heavy riffs that traverse the genre's 40-plus years in existence. The metal-attuned ear can discern everything from Thin Lizzy to Slayer in the mix (as the band is from the Bay Area, I'd like to imagine I can even hear shades of Blue Cheer's late, great Dickie Petersen in Austin Barber's vocals). But, like any of the group's guitar solos, the real explosive chemistry of this combination of patterns is unpredictable — the result is as heavy as it is timeless, a vision of heavy metal not segregated through arbitrary demarcations, but rather metal as a continuum, a nebulous, interwoven chain radiating from a dim, misremembered past. Accelerated living backwards?
With Saviours, Laudanum, Dusted Angel
Fri/29, 8 p.m. (doors 7:30 p.m.), $15–$20
375 11th St., SF