Review Summary: Grueling. Apocalyptic. Dirtier than a two-week old unwashed sock. A true high-end achievement in its own genre.
In a way Acid King’s whole career pretty much built up to this album. The San Francisco-based stoner/doom metal trio started out with the humble and enjoyable evocations of their musical peers. However over time, with each sporadic but musically consistent release they started to put more and more focus on the things that gave them more of a character and strength. The riffs got thicker and heavier, the rhythms and song structure looser and adventurous. Lori S. and her haunting, often dissonant vocals were also given more space along with the instrumentals.
The results of these were indeed satisfying. The band’s second album “Busse Woods” was a more energetic and varied release not only displaying a major improvement in songwriting but also showcasing a willingness from the band to more towards a more psychedelic/jam rock way. A major change of pace compared to their more straightforward, shorter debut “Zoroaster”. And after 6 years the band came out of the shadows again with their most monolithic and powerful achievement.
“Free, Free the people
War, war of the mind
Hail, hail you come down
You find every reason
Kneel now to your place
You find any reason”
Released in 2005, “III” is positively bursting through all speakers with sheer sonic force. Similarly to any other Acid King record, the band’s style is a combination of Black Sabbath’s classic blues-inspired sound, with drug-infused, repetitious and methodically slow approach of their contemporaries. The major difference lies in the refinement and confidence both in the songwriting and the instrumentalization. Instead of simply putting together a few cool, catchy riff, Lori and her partners are patiently building up the momentum in each track and hold on to its power as long as possible.
“2 Wheel Nation” starts out the record in a more accessible fashion with groovy, mid-paced chugs and more a sludgy overtone before heading into the bigger set-pieces. And while the shorter songs are fairly straightforward rockers, their riffs are just as lurching and addicting as the epics. The extreme fuzziness of “Bad Vision” or the more airy “Into the Ground” both pack a major punch, the latter made especially haunting with Lori’s reverbed, often multiplied vocals giving the song a feeling like if we’re listening to an ancient prayer being recited with electronic instruments.
Setting the tone and feel with the first notes, slowly venturing into a crescendo of monstrous accords, than lock into the muddy riff. Acid King operates on this game. Lori’s guitar has never sounded as powerful and biting before, with bassist Guy Phinas assisting her with plumpy, throaty bass work and Joey Osbourne maintaining the energy with his varied, often tom-heavy drumming. Their teamwork really shines in the longer track like the second jam-like half of “Heavy Load” or the noisy ups-and-downs of “On to Everafter”. But the main attraction is the 12 minute long centerpiece “War of the Mind” on which Acid King really drew out the slow riffs and Lori’s hypnotic vocals to an effect. The space between and around the instruments are palpable creating a meditative masterpiece in the vain of YOB and Sleep.
With its well-crafted songwriting, committed performances, and dynamic production values, III is Acid King's crowning achievement and one of the best examples of stoner metal with both feet firmly planted in blues-based psychedelia. Steamed in the odor of marijuana and burnt candles, you will feel deep in its seductive swamp by the first notes and lingers on long after the final booming, echoing shrieks.