Review Summary: Post-grunge that doesn't suck!
Before you run screaming for your math-rock CDs, hear me out: this is post-grunge with a twist. Coming from the fertile musical background of New Orleans Louisiana, birthplace of metal colossi such as Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity, you know it’s not going to be candyass lightweight fluff in the same vein as the slew of Nirvana-wannabes who rode St. Kurt’s plaid shirt-tails to semi-fame in the mid nineties.
Dax Riggs - Vocals
Sammy Pierre Duet - Guitar, backing screams
Mike Sanchez - Guitar
Audie Pitre - Bass, backing screams
Jimmy Kyle - Drums
This disc takes the quiet/loud dynamics and pained vocals on which grunge was founded and slathers the whole deal in a thick layer of good ol’ NOLA sludge - a heady brew incorporating a whole spectrum of metal from doom to death. Bleed Me an Ocean
and Venus Blue
, to name but two, recall a less-shi
tty Creed in their soaring choruses and maudlin verses, happily avoiding Scott Stapp and co’s grating over-sincerity thanks to the charisma which vocalist Dax Riggs injects into his delivery. The Acid Bath sound is also much heavier, retaining the genre’s punkish energy, but actually incorporating a fair degree of musicianship into the equation.
Everything about this album refines and expands upon the good points of the band’s prior effort, 1994’s When the Kite String Pops
. The hard songs are leaner and nastier: every riff bristles and snarls like a pack of rottweilers being channelled through Sammy and Mike’s amps. At the same time, the softer songs are crafted with more panache, and in general a great deal more variety is on display – where Kite String
’s Scream of the Butterfly
stuck out like a sore thumb as a result of its incongruously mellow vibe, PTT
is littered with more reflective moments, as on the fantastic Graveflower
and the funereal grind of New Death Sensations
Elsewhere, Locust Spawning
utilises tribal drums and some kind of weird strobe effect to create an impressively oppressive wall of noise, while acoustic closer Dead Girl
features some nifty quasi-classical guitar interplay between Sammy and Mike. At eleven tracks and around fifty minutes in length, PTT
also doesn’t drag like the somewhat bloated, seventy-minute Kite String
tended to. In addition, Dax doesn’t scream as much as he did on Kite String
: this is ultimately a good thing, as it would be a travesty if he ruined his distinctive clean singing voice. Though potentially highly divisive due to its bizarre timbre, it is undoubtedly one of the band’s strongest assets, imbuing every passage with a strong sense of individuality.
Alas, the same can’t be said of his lyrics. Generally sitting uncomfortably in the grey area between yawnsome pot-head mysticism (Old Skin
) and clichéd razorblade/needle/graves/whatever imagery (everything else), they occasionally veer into the realm of the childish and just plain lame: “I scream, you scream, everybody scream for morphine” (Paegan Love Song
) and “I’m shi
tting this cold death” (Venus Blue
) being two such gems. Even so, the superbly soulful inflections in his vocals go a long way towards covering up the often-laughable nature of what he’s actually singing; the sparse instrumentation of Dead Girl
foregrounds this aspect especially well.
Depending on who you ask, Acid Bath’s demise was brought about either by bassist Audie’s 1997 death in a car crash, or the fact that the band - particularly Dax - were chronic meth freaks. In either case, it’s a shame that they had to self-destruct, as on this evidence they were maybe an album or two away from true greatness, and perhaps even a modicum of commercial success. The disappointing trad-blues direction taken by Riggs on his second solo disc, last year’s We Sing Only of Blood or Love
, serves only to emphasise the fact that he got it right first time with Acid Bath.