Review Summary: Sabbath in the middle of the dusty desert.
With a distorted, thick sound, gnarly female vocals and Black Sabbath-evocations turned to 11, San Francisco’s Acid King has been one of the real cult bands for almost 25 years now, with a signature sound and a sporadic but musically consistent discography. Taking major inspirations from the doom metal godfathers, as well as their contemporaries like Sleep or Electric Wizard, guitarist/singer Lori S. and drummer Joey Osbourne has a very clear idea about the music they would want to play, and that hasn’t changed much since 1993.
If you have listened to enough stoner/doom metal, you pretty much know the drill when it comes to listening an in album in this genre. The riffs are muddled, continuous, usually slow but nevertheless grab you attention, while the booming bass and the drums all perfectly contribute to the flow of accords that reaches its heights at several parts. The only question is how is the execution? Are the riffs blues-like and melodic, or choppy and dissonant? Is the song structure tight and precise or loose and jam-like? Do we feel the odor of marihuana or the stench of dread and death from the songs?
The band’s first full length album “Zoroaster” already showcases the band’s major strengths that mostly lies in the construction of powerful riffs and effective sons structures, like the march-like lead guitar riff of “Evil Satan” or the sluggish “One Ninety-Six”. The songs flow with a comfortable mid-tempo or a slower pacing and although they seem to sound like the same at first, there are elements here and there that manage to some give them a character. Like “Dry Run” which is easily one of the major highlights with Lori’s haunting vocals and a very spacey solo section.
While most of the songwriting is certainly solid, the record is not without flaws or filler for that matter. “Fruit Cup” pretty much feels like a random unfinished demo and “Veritage” is not a jam strong enough to justify appearing twice in the tracklist. But when you have songs like the groovy, proto-stoner “Queen of Sickness” on your album, these are just mild complaints. My biggest issue lies more in the sound mixing which gives most of the power to the bass and the percussions, and while the guitars are fuzzy and dirty enough, they like the crushing power or bite that you would expect from them.
In overall I can’t say much else. “Zoroaster” is a solid, enjoyable debut that put Acid King on the map. If you’re a major doom metal or stoner fan this is definitely worth a listen. But if you’re new to these genres, who knows this just might be the record to start the journey into them.