What can you write about Acid Bath? What words could possibly do justice here? I guess I will start by asking the pure and simple question. How does a band get to be this good? I cannot comprehend how mortal humans actually came up with this music. Did Acid Bath make a pact with Satan like that John Lee Hooker blues guy? Probably, I think thatís the only plausible explanation for why they are so fucking good. Any true devoted fan of underground music can attest to the feeling that you get when after sorting through so many independent and unsung bands, you finally stumble across someone who gets it right. Acid Bath is that band. This is undoubtedly one of the most talented and diverse bands ever to play extreme music. If I ever start a band it will sound something like this. To try and describe the musical hybrid they have created on these two discs is a task which surpasses the limitations of the english language. They could probably be described as a goth band. They hail from New Orleans, Louisiana, testament enough to the fact that they have goth running through their blood. They are also a hybrid of styles so wildly diverse that I am still wondering how it all fits together so seamlessly. Their stated mission as a band was to combine their various musical influences and interests into the perfect sound to fit their vision of music. These influences are drawn from the extremes of the last three decades. They play grindcore, death metal, hardcore, classic rock, psychedelia, doom metal, blues, and progressive rock, and interspersed among the mix are various episodes of free form poetry layered above noise loops and sound effects. To try and describe the sound that results, I ask you to imagine Jim Morrison jamming in a Louisiana swamp with Pantera, Brutal Truth, and Black Sabbath. This is a band that does it all and does it better than most.
They have received much attention for their controversial album covers, featuring original artwork from Jack Kevorkian and John Wayne Gacy among others. But if anyone had bothered to look beneath the covers and listen to the music, they would find the disturbing artwork to be the tip of the fucking iceberg for Acid Bath. Dax Riggs is like a death obsessed beat poet at heart, and as a singer he is quite fucking amazing. He has a deeply intoned gothic baritone that switches off with gasping guttural screams, spoken work poetry, and effects layered Pantera type metal vocals. When he sings he sounds like Jim Morrison, when he screams he sounds like Phil Anselmo. You really can't go wrong with a combination like that. Most bands prefer to scream a lot in order to move the audience, but Dax combines aggression, beauty, and horror in an eclectic vocal mix which gets into your very soul and tears open wounds in your mind. The man sounds truly disturbed and he also writes some very interesting lyrics. Riggs foregoes the simple blood and guts and satan approach of most metal bands and instead writes free form gothic narratives of death, murder, and insanity that could rival some of Edgar Allan Poeís best work. Riggs doesn't simply describe what he sees, but rather uses imagery and metaphor to string together ideas which paint a picture of the darkest corners of the human mind. He reminds me of some people I hung out with back during my death obsessed gothic poet phase. People who would sit in coffee shops, sipping overpriced drinks and scrawling words into their black notebook at all hours of the day. Riggs is the best lyricist I have ever heard in a metal band. Period. If Edgar Allan Poe was alive today, he would be a member of Acid Bath.
Audie Petrie's death ultimately ended this band. He was a great bass player. The man is incredible. His bass lines are lessons in power and diversity. They are the power chords of bass guitar. Witness the rolling intros off Diab Soule and Fingerpaintings Of The Insane, creeping in and out, restraining for the thunder of drums and coming in again creeping above the mix. The sludgy ominous overamped bass line in Dr. Suess Is Dead displays Audie's talent for creating an unequalled atmosphere with only four strings and a truckload of amplification. If you turn it up loud enough this song will vibrate your brain inside your skull. The guitar is wildly diverse, alternating off hardcore speed riffs, crunch metal, Pantera style grooves, and acoustic atmospherics, without losing the underlying structure in the translation from one style to another. What Color Is Death off the first disc and Bleed Me An Ocean off the second are testaments enough to the power of Jimmy Kyle's drumming. This band is a self contained unit, drawing off the diverse talents and interests of each member.
The first disc is not as groundbreaking as Paegan Terrorism, but it is still better than 90% of the CDs you will ever hear in your life. The Kite String record is more death metal, noisecore than Paegan Terrorism. It doesnít wander as far into left field. However it wanders farther than most bands will ever go. Dax mostly screams on this record, but the screaming is cut with harmonic vocals in every song. There is a lot of psychotic noise on this album. Donít fucking listen to this album on LSD because it will probably make you insane. There is a lot of heavy power groove and death metal but Acid Bath never seems to settle down into one style. Rather than making the record confusing or disjointed, as it would have done in the hands of a less capable band, this approach prevents the disc from ever getting boring. No matter how many times you listen to this record, you will always find new things you didn't even notice before. Jezebel is an amazing song with vocals layered in harmonics over screaming, set to the pace of music which alternates between soft and loud, angry and mournful, sludgy and fast. Cassie Eats Cockroaches is the most interesting song on the disc, layering intensely disturbing movie samples, from Clockwork Orange and Silence of The Lambs among others, over strangely detached harmony vocals and psychotic screaming about some very dark shit. Amongst the blood spattered wreckage of death metal and noisecore, there are two quiet peaceful songs on this record, Scream Of The Butterfly and The Bones Of Baby Dolls. Not too many bands could play games with their audience like this and get away with it. However in Acid Bath's vision these two songs seem to fit perfectly. They are dark songs unquestionably, but contain transcending beauty with acoustic guitar and rolling bass punctuating the horror of the lyrics. Scream Of The Butterfly is actually a Morrison lyric from When The Music's Over. The drums are still hard on this song while everything else is soft and acoustic. This drives the music to an insane tempo while the guitar plays mournfully and haunting vocals drone over the top of it all singing about some really fucked up things. The effect is amazing. The Bones Of Baby Dolls contains a vocal which actually resembles a church hymn in its layered mournful tone. The effect is hypnotic and powerful. These songs stand out because you can clearly decipher all of the lyrics when they are sung quietly, and this approach gives the listener a scope of the brilliance involved in Acid Bath's vision.
The Paegan disc will be the crowning achievement of Acid Bath and stands as a landmark for underground music. There is evidence on this record that Acid Bath contained the talent to become a successful mainstream band. Their riffs and vocals are solid enough to compete with any band on the radio. However, their musical vision is still intact sacrificing nothing to popular appeal. The title song is death metal's version of classic rock. A clean vocal over top of a monster groove, interspersed with power chords and punctuated with screams and growls for the first couple of minutes. Then the music slows down and becomes incredibly sludgy with Dax muttering about killing people and how he's a Christian Zombie, daylight satan, the mother and the father. The imagery of catacombs and graveyards is incredibly dark. This song is an instant classic. Then Bleed Me An Ocean drops the carpetbomb of sweeping power chords and lush sonic assault. The song is a perfect execution of groove and style in extreme music. It simply sounds cool. Then the drums kick in over the top of everything and the music changes to this psychotic screaming fit of rage. Then it slows down and grooves again while Dax drones repeatedly, "I ride the painted whore, she gives good universal scream." Graveflower contains lyrical imagery of razor blades fucking and how earth and sky entomb us all, a sentiment which is disturbing and beautiful at the same time, as is the music. Diab Soule is amazing, once again a perfect marriage of classic rock to extremely dark metal. Locust Spawning is more in the style of the first album, unrepentant power hardcore metal. The overamped voice screaming a single line, "Devour", over a churning mix of droning effects and noise guitar is earth shaking. I think this actually is Phil Anselmo but I could be wrong. Venus Blue is truly amazing with probably the best lyrics of any Acid Bath song. The guitar is drowned in effect which switches off between brutal power chords and slow deliberate acoustics. 13 Fingers and New Corpse pick up the pace a bit. They are more straight ahead speed core, with fuzzed out guitar playing at light speed and very disturbing sacrilegious lyrics screamed in harmony. Then the disc ends with Dead Girl, moving straight from the unrestrained attack pattern of the previous two songs into a subtle acoustic song. This is the perfect closing, just Dax and a guitar singing about things which I can't mention here. The guitar sounds like it was pulled from the Louisiana swamp and plugged in to record this song. The lyric closes the album, "The sound of the ocean is dead, it's just the echo of the blood in your head." Damn. I can't fail to mention the experiments in gothic poetry contained on the hidden track and the song Old Skin. These songs are Dax Riggs putting down some of the darkest imagery I have ever heard overtop of some psychedelic satanic sounding effects and noise. I am sure that there is no other band which could have made this album. Acid Bath was brilliant while it lasted, transcending genres to create some of the most incredible music ever made. They give the metalheads something to bang around to, the hardcore kids something to beat each other up to, the hippie kids something to smoke pot to, and the rest of us something entertaining to listen to. Name one other band that does that. Rest in peace, diab soule.**** 1/2 / ***** Reviewed: April, 1999 Tablature For Acid Bath Songs Our Tentative Times, site run by Dax's aunt Skeletal Circus - Website devoted to Dax Rigg's musical projects, including Acid Bath, Agents of Oblivion and Deadboy. Contains audio and video clips of tons of good shit.