Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Classic Album: Acid Bath - When the Kite String Pops (1994)

While I like to keep this focused mainly on new (or at least active) bands and current musical happenings, I do have quite a backlog of bands/albums/etc that I feel are worthy of writing about given their impact on the music world and my personal outlook on it.  This is the first of such blurbs, but will not be the last.

Now I'm no metalhead, but that doesn't mean that I don't occasionally enjoy taking a little journey into the darker corners of music and the human psyche.  Granted triggering such an experience is no easy task for a record to accomplish, as simply being heavy doesn't cut it.  This is an album that pulls it off.  Regarded as a classic of underground/alternative metal, it has become increasingly engulfed in legend over the years to the point that it transcends itself.  The band burst onto the scene for a few short years before all but disappearing.  Their music on their breakthrough album is too heavy and innovative to ignore but too defiant of categorization to make a lot of sense of.  The cover of the damn thing is a self-portrait of John Wayne Gacy done while he was in prison awaiting execution.  Everything about it adds to the overall menacing vibe.

Acid Bath formed in 1991 deep in Louisiana, where the only thing sludgier than the swamps is the music.  The band (led by vocalist Dax Riggs) set out to make what they described as "death rock".  In practice this revealed itself to be a unique take on sludgy doom metal taken to extreme lengths and infused with blues, folk, and country.  After their demo earned them a deal with Rotten Records, they put out When the Kite String Pops in 1994.  

Simply put, WtKSP is an engaging, provocative, and often outright disturbing exploration of sprawling dementia.  It shifts seamlessly from thundering lurch to thrashing hardcore punk to deranged ballads featuring almost spoken-word poetry.  All the while the songs make their way through a maze of time and tempo changes while somehow maintaining the simple feel of insanity.  The compressed drums and processed vocals add an industrial dimension to the overbearing menace of the album.  Riggs does an admirable job of navigating the diverse and ever-changing material, moving seamlessly between tortured screams and crooning poetics reminiscent of Glen Danzig.  At times he displays the surprisingly complex lyrical passages with an almost southern sounding twang.  I suppose it goes without saying that the aforementioned lyrics consist of relentlessly dark themes including psychosis, drug abuse, death, and violent depression.  That said, the album manages to frame the material in such a way that presents it as a darkly poetic and musically stimulating exhibition of the dark side of human nature.  That said the length of it (clocking in at over an hour) makes it a difficult straight-through listen- (It's usually somewhere around "Dr Suess is Dead" that I feel the need to take a shower)- but The Blue, Finger Paintings of the Insane, Scream of the Butterfly, etc are still incredible as standalone tracks.

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