Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Agents Of Oblivion
2000

Rating - 9/A

As requested by Ravi...

Acid Bath were one of the best 90s bands you never heard. These Louisiana rockers easily matched the darkness and sludge of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, as also older bands like Corrosion Of Conformity and had an absolutely iconic lead singer in the form of Dax Riggs. Blending hardcore death-influenced metal, stoner sludge, psychedelia, acoustica and a very, very dark and disturbed lyrical content, delivered in an alternately snarly, growling or soaring and emotion charged, but always anthemic voice, they could have ruled the damn world. But then bassist Audie Petrie died, and the band folded, leaving behind two albums that are among the most treasured atrifacts in some of my luckier friends' colections.

Agents Of Oblivion was the next effort by vocalist Dax Riggs and Mike Sanchez, one of two guitarists from Acid Bath. They were joined, interestingly, by Petrie's brother, Chuck, who adds a more atmospheric and melodic touch to the music. Acid Bath always had its slower moments, moments where a post-apocalyptic depression and elegiac sorrow overcame the fierce, shamanic morbidity of their heavier material without compromising the darkness and intensity of the mood - songs like 'New Death Sensation', 'Bones Of Baby Dolls' or 'Dead Girl'. This album follows more in that mid-tempo oriented, acoustic-based or embellished vein.

So it's interesting that one of the tracks here is an electric version of 'Dead Girl', a song that, in its original form, served as a haunting, acoustic finale to Paegan Terrorism Tactics, Acid Bath's second and final album. Sludgy riffing and a full rhythm section (Jeff McCarty and Alex Bergeron, to complete the roll-call) replace the acoustics of the original seamlessly, while the vocals sound identical to the original. It's brilliant - I can listen to a different version of that awesome song now depending on whether I'm in a heavy or a lighter mood! 'A Song That Crawls' is acoustic and piano based, but it isn't a step down in complexity or ambition with its odd time signatures. 'The Hangman's Daugher', 'Wither' and 'Cosmic Dancer' are all killer tracks that resonate with acoustic guitars and funereal elegance. But it's not all soft stuff - 'Slave Riot' and 'Ash Of The Mind' are faster, more heavy tracks, while the world-ending opener, 'Endsmouth', 'Phantom Green' (with its weird spoken-word outro reminding me of similar excursions by Acid Bath, as does the alarmingly profane kid ranting about god-damn rabbits at the end of 'Big Black Backwards', followed by a strange melodic section), 'Anthem (For This Haunted City)'and 'Ladybug' are all marked by sludgy, heavy guitars and hypnotic mid-tempos.

The Eiderdown Stuffing Bottomline: There's actually no point name-checking songs here. Frankly, it's all very good, with no filler at all. The sheer preponderance of mid-tempo sludge can have a cumulative downer effect on you, but that would actually be quite a fitting outcome, and you're probably going to be running a lot of these riffs, melodies and vocal lines in your head as you sit in your grey study. A less hardcore, but no less intense and diverse continuation of the Acid Bath style. It's a shame this band only lasted for one album. Guess they danced themselves into the tomb...

4 comments:

Hum do Harami do said...

Awesome review for one of my favourite albums! Thanks. Whaddya think of the Deadboy debut? I love it on par with this one but their next album — We are the night sky - where Dax appears to have sacked his entire band and got his girlfriend in is quite appalling. I think i should give it another try — I have a dim hope that it may not be bad per se, but only by comparison, but I suspect my first overwhelmingly negative impression of the album was bang on.

HR Venkatesh said...

since you're taking requests (!!) ra, here's mine - any guns n roses album!

JP said...

Ravi - glad you liked it, although you probably have a better one submerged somewhere in Kunal's forum. I've not yet explored Deadboy - I did hear the first album, but it didn't sound that intense at first, and I've sort of sidelined it, fearing that Riggs may have fallen into Second Decade Homogenisation (the phenomenon by which an artist looses their trademark sound and begins sounding like the surounding music of the time in their second decade of recording - worked fine for Judas Priest, not so fine for, say, Metallica or Slayer).

Kunda: Good idea! Stay tuned.

I think I'll have to beg off further review requests for a while - I have quite a queue now, and my own current obsessions as well! Thanks for the suggestions.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Okay, you sold me after listening to Alabama Thunderpussy on the ride home. I'll have to check it out...