The Multifaceted Acid Bath
April 25, 2011
Since there aren’t nearly enough articles on Acid Bath, here’s my take on the band. First the facts:
Acid Bath was a band from Houma, Louisiana active from 1991 to 1997. The line-up was a melding of members from the bands, Dark Karnival (Audie Pitre/bass and Sammy Duet/guitar) and Golgotha (Jimmy Kyle/drums, Dax Riggs/vocals, and Mike Sanchez/guitar), while Joseph J. Fontenot from Shrum did play bass for a brief moment in Acid Bath’s history. After recording their demo, “Hymns of the Needle Freak,” in 1993, they got picked up by Rotten Records which lead to the release of “When the Kite String Pops” in 1994. This was followed by their second and final full-length, “Paegan Terrorism Tactics,” in 1996. Acid Bath came to an abrupt end in 1997 when Audie Pitre died, along with his parents in an accident with a drunk driver, since the other members felt that another bassist couldn’t replace him. Plagued by drug addiction, personal conflicts, and disagreements on what musical direction Acid Bath should take, the last straw was Audie’s death.
Dax Riggs views Acid Bath as his “high school band” and has expressed feeling as though he’s outgrown that period of his life, moving on to projects like Deadboy and the Elephantmen and his current self-named band. Mike Sanchez played guitar for Agents of Oblivion which was basically a slower and more melodic reincarnation of Acid Bath started by Dax after the short interlude that was Daisyhead & The Mooncrickets. I can’t really confirm this, but Jimmy Kyle is said to have become a missionary in Africa. Sammy Duet continued on his own path within the music world divorced from Dax’s musical transformation with bands like Goatwhore, Crowbar, and Ritual Killer. Despite their dissolution, all former members of Acid Bath still retain rights to the name which enabled them to put out a 2005 release of their demos titled, “Demos: 1993 – 1996.”
That’s the easy part about reviewing this band. It tends to get hairy when categorizing these guys under a specific genre. Though, during the same interview that I linked above, Dax describes his inspiration for the band’s sound stemming from his desire to meld a love for thrash, early death metal, black metal and bands like The Rolling Stones and David Bowie into something that is incredibly heavy but still serving to connect with the listener on a deeper emotional level. Sammy also described their sound as “gothic hardcore” in this interview a few weeks before the release of “Paegan Terrorist Tactics.”
My personal take on their sound is that, along with Eyehategod and Crowbar, Acid Bath founded sludge. Sludge metal is basically a genre that was highly influenced by bands who blended hardcore punk and/or grunge elements into their base sound of stoner rock/metal and/or doom metal. Acid Bath, musically, was quite an amazing mix of all those elements. In just one song, they would change gears completely and the blending of Dax’s smooth (not meaning clean, but rather, not pitched screeching) vocals with his and several other members’ more tortured screeches accentuated the song’s atmosphere perfectly.
A prime example is the second track, “Tranquilized”, off of their first album. The song starts out with a classic blues-y riff and drum beat accompanied by Dax’s smooth vocals. As it nears the breakdown, the guitar-riffs become grungy fuzz in the background and another band member in-harmoniously chimes in for the chorus. As for the breakdown itself, it’s so orgasmicly doomy. This song is not particularly fast in any sense of the word, but it’s very very very heavy. You can hear that droning bass and the down-tuned guitar come together while the systematic and rhythmic “clink” of the drums lend it a ritualistic feel. It just makes you want to nod your head slowly with the beat and just zone out. Dax’s voice during this segment of the song just adds to that feeling. There are very few vocalists in metal that I would call “soulful” and Dax is one of those few. We’re broken out of the breakdown by an infectious blues rhythm interrupted during the chorus with that grungy fuzz again and welcome harsher vocals. Almost every song on the first album, When The Kite String Pops, have that feel. Not particularly fast, but mostly heavy and very dynamic songs. There are only two exceptions to that rule on the album. “Scream of the Butterfly” and “The Bones of Baby Dolls”. Both songs are rock ballads and both only feature Dax on vocal duty. “Scream of the Butterfly” has a the slow and steady blues electric guitar vibe going with relaxed drums to give the song tension and tempo when needed. “The Bones of Baby Dolls” is quite a unique song on this album being how it’s only acoustic guitar with vocals. The song is just as blues oriented as “Scream of the Butterfly” and Dax’s vocals are exceptionally “soulful”.
That would bring me to their second album, “Paegan Terrorist Tactics.” While I find this album to be quite exceptional, the balance of ballads against their usual melting pot of genres is the same as their previous album. I must admit though, some of the songs do sound more grungy overall and the drums more punkish before it all slows down into doom breakdowns and riffs. Oh, and it’s still bluesy as hell. A prime example for the grunge feel is “Bleed Me an Ocean” which becomes apparent quickly in the guitar work. “Locust Spawning” though, man it’s one of their fastest songs. It just starts off with this tense “tink tink” going with the drums then it just builds up with the guitar and angry vocal work. The drumming as it progresses reminds me so much of hardcore punk drumming. It’s not quite fast enough to be considered black metal and, though there’s a double bass pedal being used, it doesn’t have the usual death metal change up between fast beats. So, overall, songs on this album are as dynamic as their last album and just as heavy. Their two ballads on this album both surpass the two on their first album. That’s purely my opinion not backed by cold hard facts, so take it with a grain of salt. The first one I would like to discuss is “New Death Sensations”. This song is quite hard to describe since I feel that it’s more ethereal in nature rather than being just a simple rock ballad. I’m not skilled enough to pin down exactly what effect they are using in that song, but in the background there is this almost creepy and slightly psychedelic sound. The second ballad, “Dead Girl” is just incredibly beautiful to me. It’s your typical rock ballad with just acoustic guitar and vocals…but for some reason it makes me react a certain way. Could be the blues driven sympathetic chords combined with Dax’s mournful voice. I simply..don’t know.
All that aside, the two incredibly unique tracks on this album for Acid Bath are “Old Skin” and “New Corpse”. The former is a creepy monologue done with a heavily modified deep voice. The latter is a fast song with Dax interchanging with anguish ridden screams. Basically, that means that the vocals are typical of what people would expect from the sludge genre these days. For those that aren’t familiar with many sludge bands, it’s done Eyehategod style.
Now that we’ve got the instrumental and vocal style down, time to tackle some facts on the lyrics:
Dax Riggs’s lyrics center mainly around drug use, violent imagery, and different manifestations of the supernatural. His influences have been briefly cited as being comics, horror, and art.
My thoughts? Well, the lyrics once you read them are disturbing especially for one of my favorite songs, “Dead Girl”. None of their lyrics are what you would call pleasant or positive in any stretch of the imagination. That aside, I find them to be brilliant from a poet’s point of view. Only being very high or very creative could get you those type of lyrics. Maybe a blend of both is ideal? One of my favorite verses comes from “Bleed Me an Ocean”:
Just like a rain drop
I was born baby to fall
and scale these prison walls
It was over before you were born
Sucked into the vacuum of this universal tomb
A side-note before I conclude this article, the demos are recommended. For some reason, they are more bassy. Vocals are more raw and interesting and being able to hear the bass at the forefront for a good deal of the songs was great.
This band is amazing, I can’t recommend them enough for fans of any genre of metal. I only hope that my review did them justice and possibly convinced some virgin ears to give them a listen.