DB HOF NO. 61
The making of Saint Vitus’ “Born Too Late”
Saint Vitus were a living, breathing anachronism in every possible way. Guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams, drummer Armando Acosta and vocalist Scott Reagers crawled out of the industrial wasteland of Lomita, CA, in 1979, playing dinosaur doom when L.A.’s squalid underground was ruled by the hardcore punk aesthetic of Black Flag. Vitus invoked the fuzzed-out, drugged-out riff hypnosis of Sabbath at a time when their musical mentors in the Drab Four were at their pre-Dio nadir. All through the ’80s, they wrote torpid doom epics while speed metal exploded across L.A. County in the form of Metallica, Slayer and Dark Angel. They were bellbottomed longhairs playing bleary-eyed dirge metal on an SST roster that had built its punk-as-fuck reputation with Black Flag, Minutemen and weirdo rock bands like Saccharine Trust and the Meat Puppets.
Thrust into a scene they had hardly anything in common with, Vitus spent most of their career getting spit on while touring with the likes of Flag, the Mentors and the Brood. After recording two full-lengths (1984’s Saint Vitus and 1985’s Hallow’s Victim) and an EP (1985’s The Walking Dead) with Vitus, Reagers split mid-tour, within days of finding his own replacement in burgeoning DC death-glam iconoclast Scott “Wino” Weinrich. In 1986, the new Vitus lineup recorded their six-song masterpiece, Born too Late, with producer Joe Carducci at Total Access Studios in Redondo Beach, CA. Released the following year, the album was an unmitigated triumph of autobiographical heaviness. Chandler’s lyrics about alcoholism (“Dying Inside”), acid trips (“Clear Windowpane”) and depression (“The Lost Feeling”) were trumped only by those of the title track, which perfectly articulated Saint Vitus’ acrimonious relationship with the rest of the world. And yet 23 years later, Vitus have been embraced by metalheads everywhere, and Born too Late is a stone-cold classic. Here’s how it went down. —J. Bennett
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