Review Summary: I have fallen in deep love with the sky.
Acid Bath- When the Kite String Pops
This album doesn't need a new review, but here it goes anyways.
A certified 90's metal classic, When the Kite String Pops is a crushing assault of all things vile and belligerent. However, restraint is a critical component of all great art, and Acid Bath finds the perfect melding of grisly force and thoughtful introspection on this mammoth 1994 release. Here is a band determined to thoughtfully unite the varying stylistic methods of heavy metal into a coherent whole, and they do so with a visceral intensity that is easy to celebrate. Equal parts death metal, thrash, sludge, and grunge, this is an album that earned every bit of its heralded position as an underground metal classic thanks to its brute force and undeniable musicality. Commercial praise be damned, this album will challenge any listener to consider the logic of their convictions as they're thrown into a frightening maelstrom of psychotic fury, bleak rage, and observant contemplation of all things depraved and unsettling.
In heavy metal, the logical development of riffs as motifs and narratives is critical to its function as intelligent art. Acid Bath's grab bag of influences merge perfectly with this philosophy, their sequential tempo changes and tonal shifts never sounding erratic or misplaced. Witness opener "The Blue" as it smoothly flows between swampy doom progressions, hardcore riffing, and Kyuss like levels of atmospheric exploration. Off the bat, it is the cleanest distillation of the band's virtues as it seamlessly unfolds its thematic sequence. Frontman Dax Riggs is explosive and restrained throughout, effortlessly alternating between vigorous screams and subtle crooning, both of which became trademarks in his unique blending of styles. If there is one achievement that Riggs can hang his hat on in the death, sludge, and stoner metal circles, it's the reminder that that those styles need not shy away from the choral tradition. Riggs proves that the sharp integration of accomplished vocal work can augment the experience of this brand of heavy metal.
The charging "Tranquilized" is next. Riggs focuses more on his airy, clean style here to great effect as the band switches between liquid riffing and bouncing doom sections. The highlight of the song is the brief bass interlude that precedes a remarkable solo break, the band patiently proceeding to the conclusion with an aerial guitar outro. The tranquil effect doesn't last long as the band races into "Cheap Vodka," a two minute punk like rager that drips with corrosive distortion. Splendid indeed.
The heavy bass intro of "Fingerpaintings of the Insane" unfolds with restrained malice before exploding into tight riffing interplay between the band. "Jezebel" is a schizophrenic blast and maybe the most fearsome song on the album, the band matching each other for collective intensity with left turn tempo changes and acerbic howls emanating from Riggs.
The band's dexterity is further revealed in the spooky but oh so addictive ballad, "Scream of the Butterfly." A persistent bass line lays the foundation for the bluesy guitar interludes and Riggs' poetic tale of a rape that led to an abortion. The haunting atmosphere pulls the listener in, Riggs' inescapable croon and the quality of his intonation striking to the core. The return to the abyss is inevitable with the two minute doom intro of "Dr. Seuss is Dead," the band eventually exploding into pure thrash violence and Riggs matching them with menacing intensity. You're halfway there.
"Dope Fiend" is a simultaneously eruptive and ethereal metal number, its highlight coming at the song's climax when a spacey solo accompanies a great riff breakdown and Riggs making another frightening vocal declaration. "Toubabo Koomi" shockingly transitions from corrosive death metal riffing to sludgy atmospherics at will, Riggs acknowledging these shifts with his fluent transitions in tone and projection.
"God Machine," "The Mortician's Flame," and "What Color is Death" are slightly more paint by number than what came before, but still retain an acerbic punchiness that is in support of the whole album. "The Bones of Baby Dolls" is a definite stunner with its folk-like acoustic guitar melodies and sonorous vocal stylings, the bewildered atmosphere it creates truly putting the blackness of the album into context. Apart from Alice in Chains, there are few other bands whose darkness translated so well to an acoustic setting. Thus, "Bones" would have been the perfect closer with its forlorn conclusion, but the band has room for one more tear at the gut. "Cassie Loves Cockroaches" ends the album with a slice to the midsection, its spoken word samples and grating riffs putting the final stamp on an album filled with shadowy revelations.
Kite String is a feast of delights for those willing to step into the house of flames. It is more nimble and agile than most black or death metal albums and its narrative structure far more complete than the majority of sludge or grunge albums. A full immersion into this record may be unsettling at first, but quite simply, the music is wonderfully composed and the platform for philosophical contemplation is vast. Music works fine as mere entertainment, but its function as art is the real key to finding meaning in a world gone dry. On Kite String, Acid Bath works to create something unique and eternal, reminding the listener that truly thoughtful contemplation of life comes with a gnashing of teeth.