Being a right old fart and quite firmly living in the past, I hadn't heard of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats until I saw them supporting Black Sabbath on Tour late last year.
Older and unwiser, I usually don't pay much attention to support bands at this time of life, but there was something striking and exceptional about this group that kept me out of the bar before the headliners came on.
They were a mass of hair and velour and flares, with a sound that was retrospective - but refreshing at the same time. There were no backdrops or pyros, just the minimum of lights and only identifiable by their logo on the bass drum - but they had a dark, heavy and mournful sound. They were a perfect opening for Sabbath, so as soon as I got home I was onto the computerised internet machine to find out more.
I'd had to borrow a friend's 16 year old to accompany me to the show as Baron Spanielmeister didn't attend because he has tinnitus (what a rock n roll couple we are). However on hearing my report back he liked the sound of these guys. YouTube was the first port of call, so himself and I sat round the laptop with a couple of bottles of wine and got better acquainted with the men from Uncle.
The band are a four piece from Cambridge (England) with a sound and sentiment of when the sixties began to go sour and when peace and love turned Helter Skelter. The themes of the songs included great metal staples: occultism, death, black magic etc. and while the album "Mind Control" is their latest release, tracks from the album "Blood Lust" seemed more prominent, so that was the one I ordered first.
It was released in 2011 and is the second of three album releases by the band. My CD copy was £7.18 from Play.com at the time, but I have noticed that the prices have gone up since. You can download it from Amazon for £7.11, but being old school I still like to have my music in my hand. I was even tempted to go really retro and buy it on vinyl but at £23.97 it was a bit too steep just for me to make a statement.
So pop-pickers, lets countdown the tracks and see what evil Uncle Acid has to offer.
Track 1 - I'll Cut You Down
With a montage of TV voice clips (I'm yet to work out what they all are and their significance) at the beginning, this is great opening track. Beginning with guitar, then developing bass and drums this song grows into a blasting solid hard rock track. Good start.
Track 2 - Death's Door
Slower and steadier, with a more repetitive sound and beat, there isn't as much going on in this track musically, but it does make you concentrate on the vocals more - Uncle Acid's understated voice make me think of a gloomy John Lennon and I love the way that by juxtaposing it with the rough under produced music a certain "lost" feeling is added.
Track 3 - Over and Over Again
Upbeat sounds this time, lively track, with the title line repeated - erm - over and over again. Really catchy sing-along in the car - except that the lyrics are the story of a witch being captured and burned, then casting a spell on her tormenters and drowning them all in a lake of blood!
Track 4 - Curse in the Trees
This track begins with a discordant, slow intro, the sound reminiscent of late Beatles' psychedelic - the breaks into a heavy rock sound typical of early Black Sabbath. The obvious influences work really well together to make an outstanding, dramatic track.
Track 5 - I'm Here to Kill You
This one is a more funky, groovy sound with a strong rhythmic bass throughout. It's actually a great one to dance about to while you're making the dinner if you're that way inclined - and of course sing along to the jolly line "I'm here to kill you and to take you away"!
Track 6 - 13 Candles
This is my favourite track, great rock riffs and guitar lead break in the middle. It was the first track that came up on YouTube when I started to research the band. It's since been taken off - not sure why - I suppose some copyright issue regarding the video that had slipped through the net until their profile grew and it got more views.
The lyrics read like a Roger Corman movie script - black magicians, sorceress of death, rituals of sin, the gang's all there - however I can't resist the temptation to sing the Two Ronnie's "Fork Handles" line throughout the chorus.
Not very gloomy or doomy of me, I know. Sorry Uncle.
Track 7 - Ritual Knife
Slow pace, hypnotic repetition, a spiralling sound here - quite different to the much of the rest of the album, but with the same dark themes. I do prefer the more traditional hard rock tracks, but this is still good as a bit of variation in the album.
Track 8 - Withered Hand of Evil
A great final track this, dramatic and growing to a climax as unsophisticated but expressive keyboards are eventually introduced giving it a great gloomy psychedelic sound.
Bonus Track - Down to the Fire
But wait - on my copy there's more. This is a cracking acoustic track with birdsong and burning wood sound effects and the vocal style of Uncle Acid is perfect for this folky sound. This is fantastic - while I love all the hard rock stuff I could listen to a whole album just of this stuff.
I'm a little disappointed in myself - but not at all surprised - that they have slipped through my radar, and that I'm only beginning to enjoy a new band because they happened to be supporting the oldies. I'm currently listening to album three "Mind Control" but have been unable as yet to find a copy of "Volume 1". I'd imagine it's extremely rare, but as the band's popularity and profile grows there might be the chance of a re-release.
Here's a great quote I found on the website "No Clean Singing" which I think sums up beautifully my opinions on Uncle Acid:
"Listeners of a certain advanced age, such as yours truly, will think they've entered a time warp and surfaced in the era when Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Neil Young were changing the face of rock. But where those bands were singing about climbing stairways to heaven, strange brew, and Southern men, Uncle Acid steep themselves in witchery, murder, and the ritual of sin."
My friend's 16 year old seems pretty impressed and I have had reports of some "dreadful deathly noise" coming from his room, for which I am apparently to blame, so I'm feeling quite encouraged. While I've been slow on the uptake hopefully it's not just the seniors listening in, but that there is a new generation morbid teenage doom merchants out there who as I type are drawing their curtains, painting their bedrooms black, and cranking up "Blood Lust".
Thanks for reading.
2012 might not have been the best of years when it came to new releases but there were a couple of gems and I'm sure more will come to my attention in 2013. Blood Lust is the band's first CD release, their first album Volume 1, released two years earlier and was only sold in limited vinyl form.
This cult band from Cambridge have a pretty strong following in the USA, perhaps more so than in the UK. Their horror-themed, doom or stoner metal seems to have caught on there. Initially noticing it a list of similar items to 'The Axeman Cometh' by Wicked Lady, a favourite of mine, I was lured in by the somewhat kitsch purple and black album cover.
Like a lot of bands in this genre, they tend to be given the unwarranted tag of 'Black Sabbath rip-off'. There are similarities but they are by no means an imitation. The relatively high vocals are usually covered with various kind of distortions and to some extent it reminds me of early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, in fact the vocals sound like John Lennon and Noddy Holder drunk at a party. It takes a couple of listens to a song to really be able to decipher the lyrics.
"I'll Cut You Down" which comes with a novelty opening from a horror film is by far the catchiest of the tracks on the album, there are more vocals than in most tracks. On the contrary, clocking in at over 7 minutes long, "Death's Door", largely instrumental, is full of dark, heavy riffs as well as some classic guitar solos that will have you not wanting to leave the car, even though you've already parked.
"Over and Over Again" is a little repetitive, admittedly the main riffs are catchy but it's lacking something to put it into top gear. "13 Candles" is in a similar vein but has a bit more about it. The most hypnotic track is surely "Ritual Knife", the singing may be a little shrill for some but it seems to contrast the sludgy bass lines quite well.
The band's best song so far is a cover version of The Kinks - Wicked Annabella but it's neither on this album or its predecessor. It's a hard album to come about and is not always available, £16 may seem a bit steep but it's still worth buying.