I originally bought this album by chance - figuring a band that had the guts to use a John Wayne Gacy (the infamous serial killer) picture on the cover must have something going for them - The hunch was right
Acid Bath play a groovy, sludgy rhythm over some truly disturbing vocals. This is not the sort of things youngsters should be listening to. Its difficult to pick out what the singer is saying, but as the album comes with a full lyric sheet, it soon becomes apparent that this is occasionally some very sick stuff.
Rather than going for the death metal sound which their lyrics would probably suit, Acid Bath edge towards the grindier side of metal, massively detuned guitars alongside fuzz bass. 'Cheap Vodka' is more of a punky effort, speeding along in a couple of minutes.
Acid Bath turn out not to be a one trick pony however, with the lyrically disturbing but melodically beautiful 'Bones of Baby Dolls' - Impressively showing why these ended up being cult favourites of many metalheads.
The long-defunct Acid Bath played a variety of sludge doom metal infused with influences from their native Louisiana roots, resulting in something of a cross between the gritty riffs of Black Sabbath, the Southern anger of contemporary groove metal bands like Pantera, and even some moderate outbursts of death metal. When the Kite String Pops is the first of only two albums the popular outfit recorded before the death of bassist Audie Pitre from a collision with a drunk driver in 1997, when the band respectfully called it a day and frontman Dax Riggs went on to found a number of ambitious projects.
Acid Baths music is really more suited to the pent-up rage of moshing teenagers than self-satisfied metal nerds like myself, but the doom influence keeps this album of interest to me for the most part, even if I resent it a little for becoming overrated in the way all American bands inevitably do, in comparison to their hard-working European equivalents. Ranging frequently from violent cacophony to reflective calm several times within each song, with a couple of exceptions sticking steadfastly to each extreme, When the Kite String Pops is a generous offering of fourteen similar-sounding songs to entertain patient listeners for just over an hour, provided they can stomach the aural assault and Dax Riggs deliberately violent, occasionally gruesome lyrics. Perhaps in a further bid for notoriety with the kids, the cover art is taken from a painting called Pogo the Clown #15/Skull Clown #171 by incarcerated serial killer and cannibal John Wayne Gacy. Perhaps Im inferring too much of the band; maybe they just really liked the picture.
1. The Blue
3. Cheap Vodka
4. Finger Paintings of the Insane
6. Scream of the Butterfly
7. Dr. Seuss is Dead
8. Dope Fiend
9. Toubabo Koomi
10. God Machine
11. The Morticians Flame
12. What Colour is Death?
13. The Bones of Baby Dolls
14. Cassie Eats Cockroaches
The style of this album varies very little throughout its extensive playing time, based primarily on simplistic, extremely down-tuned and distorted guitar riffs usually played at medium speed, with occasional outbursts into a thrash assault. The late Pitres bass is a key ingredient of the already bass-heavy sound, accompanying Sammy Duet and Mike Sanchezs guitars or filling in when theyre absent, while Jimmy Kyles drums get plenty of time in the spotlight when the rest of the bands backs are turned, and he gets to show off his clicky double bass pedals in performances reminiscent of Panteras Vinnie Paul. Riggs vocals are an interesting feature, equally weighted between a distinctive Southern U.S. low singing and distorted hardcore shouting, occasionally broadening his range in the softer songs. The band isnt about skilled musicianship as much as its about the release of hatred and frustration at the end of the weekly grind, never making proper use of its two guitarists and clearly not paying any attention to the commercial prospects that would doubtless come their way if only they calmed down a little. The introductions and endings of a number of songs are infected with serious guitar feedback, clearly left it on purpose and adding to the generally stoned and careless attitude the band succeeds in conveying.
Doubtless angsty youths will appreciate the mindless assault of songs such as the opener The Blue and the other speedy swear-fests such as Cheap Vodka, Jezebel and a couple of tracks towards the end, but these really arent for me. Ive polluted myself so much with this heavy metal thing that sludge bands anger sounds practically contented compared to the more violent excesses of Scandinavian scene, and their attempts to shock or provoke appear fairly tame when viewed alongside the disgusting themes, album covers and lyrics of their own countrys brutal death metal. Far more interesting are the songs like Tranquilized, which fittingly takes on a slightly slower, truly droning tone and entrances the listener for several minutes with a more modern equivalent of the Black Sabbath sound, throwing out the occasional random, squealing and pleasantly amateurish guitar solo as Riggs sings in a gruff-but-soft tone similar to bands such as Tool. The lengthy Finger Paintings of the Insane is even better, featuring some plodding, doomy sections that sound a lot like Candlemass, and based around some very half-hearted lead melodies that play a little bit of an Egyptian theme, but then cant be bothered. Its cool, and Kyles drumming is used sparingly and ominously in the slower sections to create a great atmosphere; the only problem is the slightly muted vocal performance towards the end, which sounds like it might be rap (and there was me claiming proudly that I didnt own any), but might just as easily be Riggs mumbling on about something or other. The listener really isnt supposed to be paying attention by now, as whatever theyre smoking makes them more concerned with flying, or whatever those drugs make people do.
Perhaps my favourite song is oddly the biggest diversion of the whole album, the fully acoustic Scream of the Butterfly. Clearly aiming to be this albums Planet Caravan, the band refrains from leaping into all-out noise despite prominent heavy percussion from Kyle that oddly doesnt seem out of place with the laid-back bass and acoustic guitar. Riggs singing takes on a more traditional sound in this softer piece, sounding similar to rock bands of the time such as Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains, and its a really nice, almost psychedelic release that thankfully isnt spoiled by the next song leaping back into heaviness straight away. Although its soon back to the normal order, Dr. Seuss is Dead at least begins with some slow feedback and an enjoyable bit of groove metal. The penultimate Bones of Baby Dolls is the other acoustic song on here, but a bit more forced and less refined, surrounded by the heaviest offerings of the album in the form of the energetic What Colour is Death?, annoyingly reminiscent of System of a Down in several places despite predating that ridiculously popular band, and the final Cassie Eats Cockroaches that sees the band pour all of its remaining force into a near-death-metal attack interspersed with distorted but relevant samples from films, opening with a line from A Clockwork Orange and ending the album with Riggs line: they suck the meat from her bones. Just about sums it up really.
Acid Bath is a bit of a departure from the norm for me, but an interesting piece of nineties sludge-doom all the same. Although the annoying distorted shouting reminds me unpleasantly of later youth-angst bands like Slipknot, they suit the overall fuzzy sound of this release, particularly the droning guitars, and were clearly innovative at the time. Dax Riggs went on to found Agents of Oblivion, whose name begins with Ag and will therefore clearly pop up in my review list some time in the near future. As for Acid Baths second album, I dont think Ill bother; this is all the Pantera-esque Southern violent doom I need in my life right now.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 Cheap Vodka
4 Fingerpaintings Of The Insane
6 Scream Of The Butterfly
7 Dr. Seuss Is Dead
8 Dope Fiend
10 God Machine
11 Mortician's Flame
12 What Color Is Death
13 Bones Of Baby Dolls
14 Cassie Eats Cockroaches