1994 is a year that saw a number of huge releases from important metal bands. Groove metallers Pantera released Far Beyond Driven, stoner rockers Kyuss unveiled Welcome To Sky Valley and black metal legends Darkthrone unleashed Transilvanian Hunger. But, amidst the host of big names dropping timeless records within metal’s various subgenres, emerged Louisiana’s Acid Bath with their indefinable debut full-length When The Kite String Pops. Sure, the band may often find themselves aligned with sludge, but the album stood out for its versatility, and proved a precursor to the wealth of experimental metal the world is now filled with. Utterly eccentric, it put a number of people off at the time for its refusal to stick to the rules. What those people missed, however, is that it was exactly this that made the release such a formidable and unique (in the best sense of the word) beast.
Nowadays, bands who can merge genres the way Acid Bath did are commended in the pages of metal’s biggest publications, and whilst Acid Bath will never be mentioned alongside famously influential metal acts like Black Sabbath and Metallica, they were, in some ways, just as influential on the modern metal scene, particularly in the underground. Unlikely to ever make the big leagues, the band were cursed simply for being too ahead of their time. When The Kite String Pops saw Acid Bath achieve something every band wishes they could – create something that had never been done before. It took sludge, doom, stoner rock, death metal, punk, grind and thrash and threw them it into a melting pot of schizophrenic intensity and maniacal rhythms. Thematic inspiration would come from life’s darkest subjects – death, drugs, doom, and the thoughts of serial-killers. The artwork was even taken from a painting by the infamous killer John Wayne Gacy, that he created whilst awaiting execution.
We wouldn’t be the first to point out that the album wasn’t exactly well received at the time, at least not amongst metal’s mainstream, where critics questioned who the target audience for such a multi-faceted release was, for some reason following the inane notion that metal fans need to cling to one subgenre and can’t just be fans of the riff, no matter how it’s utilised. When The Kite String Pops is as corrosive as metal gets, stirring up textures from various metal subgenres and emerging with something more aurally challenging as a result. The vocals ranged from tortured screams to more dejected croons, the riffs drifted from sludgy dirges to thrashy assaults and yet the atmosphere was one of chaotic cohesion.
Acid Bath are no more, but their legacy amongst riff-heads and underground metal types lives on, simply because their music remains relevant. Almost two-and-a-half decades later, in a musical landscape in which the goalposts have shifted and there is more music available than ever, few can even hope to compare to the frenzied assault offered up by these American oddballs.
Words: George Parr