Review Summary: Despite their impressive pedigree, Acid Tiger's debut just doesn't measure up.
It’s not really a secret to anyone “in the know” that Converge are among the most deified metalcore bands. In some circles, I know from personal experience, it can be tantamount to heresy to utter even the slightest of detractions against them. Fortunately (for me, anyway) this is not a Converge review. Acid Tiger are the brainchild of Ben Koller and Lukas Previn, of the aforementioned god-like band and, among others, The A.K.A.s/Thursday/possibly
United Nations respectively. An experimental, oftentimes almost psychedelic, post-hardcore project from musicians whose blood runs as blue as the ocean? On paper that sounds really awesome. But so do a lot of other things- communism for instance.
Nailing the problems with Acid Tiger’s self-titled debut comes first and foremost by looking at the production. Koller and crew went no further then to fellow Converge member Kurt Ballou and his studio, Godcity. Ballou’s resume as a producer is ridiculously impressive, having mastered , re-mastered, or been damn solely responsible (as well as playing on!) for the success of many prominent punk, screamo, metal albums/bands since the studio’s inception in 1998. Unfortunately Acid Tiger
is not one of his shining moments. Overproduction is the number one killer of good post-hardcore albums (Letlive), and this disc has it in spades. For one thing, mixing J. Rattlesnake’s vocals at the level they are on this record was not the wisest move. As he transitions rather awkwardly between warbles, yelps, shouts, and screams trying to find his sweet spot in an amalgamation between Thursday and Drive Like Jehu, his whole vocal delivery grates pretty close to home on the nerves.
The inclusion of random mathiness, synths, and other prog-esque mainstays don’t do Acid Tiger
any favors either. Really it just seems like the band is trying to forcibly be experimental rather than just messing around and being truly experimental. Most tracks are altogether way too bloated and really seem to be written to do nothing other than test a listener’s patience. This is accentuated by the fact that, stripped down, this would probably all sound very good. Case in point the end of “Big Beat” which lets Koller loose doing what he does best: being a sick drummer. Admittedly, he’s the reason most people are going to want to listen to this, and he most certainly delivers. Acid Tiger
’s best moments come from his performance, which is pretty much earth-shattering. The spindly guitar work, running the genre gamut of everything from punk to acid jazz, anchored by the solid bass performance which helps to round out Koller’s furious rhythm, keeps this from being a total disaster.
It’s unfortunate, however, that band that brings together so much talent would struggle to find their own identity without coming off as a poor man’s this or that. If Acid Tiger
had just found a little more balance it would have been one of the stronger in-the-vein-of-hardcore releases of the year. Sadly, the finished product is relatively bland and largely uninspired. This sort of supergroup cribbed pieces from a lot of different, and much better, albums, but they wound up taking the wrong ones and furthermore assembled the puzzle almost totally wrong. Previn interestingly almost confirms this, having said the band had “no plan or guideline for us other than getting our friends in a room and playing all the riffs we had that didn't work for the other bands we are in.” While he obviously meant that in a more positive light, the end result thus far has been decidedly lackluster. Fans of his and Koller’s will be happy to know that they totally do bring it (the latter especially) on this record. Everyone else though is going to be hard-pressed to want to put up with this. Acid Tiger’s debut is a good example that despite royal breeding, mutts can still pop out of the woodwork. So I guess Bob Barker was right about all that spaying/neutering stuff.