Aside from the sludge and viciousness, what always strikes me about ‘Acid Bath’ is the way Dax, Sammy and Audie arrange their vocals. On one hand Dax has his Morrison-slur and his own scream, but he is often backed (to great effect) by either guitarist’s distorted vocals, in something of a counterpoint. In fact, even Riggs’ manner of throwing just a single clean or harsh word into a line always keeps things interesting, in spite of lyrics that seem at times a little ‘teenage’ – as if he’s working hard to convince the listener how mysterious and macabre he can be. (Although, what’s not to like about ‘zombies eating dust in Mexico’?) And I say that with fondness, as part of what’s so enjoyable with this album is the mixture of corny/poetic lyrics, which also reveal a sense of humour that’s more sly than I’ve given credit for here.
The distorted production technique, combined with the darker, aforementioned sludge-sound, is the perfect mix of sharpness and murk, adding additional dynamic to songs that have become both gentler and heavier since their debut ‘When the Kite String Pops.’ In addition to this the compositions on ‘Paegan Terrorism Tactics’ are a cut above older songs for me, as if the band both found the ability to distil their ideas into fewer pieces and work memorable riffs and structures into the album without sacrificing their established sound. This is most obvious where they use the classic Black Sabbath ‘tempo change’ approach and apply it to pieces like “Bleed me an Ocean” or “Paegan Love Song” – two outstanding openers that might have served as singles.
Heavier, almost thrash-pieces like ‘Locust Spawning’ and ’13 Fingers’ are in sharp contrast to the acoustic blues of ‘Dead Girl’ or the feeling of hopelessness that the ‘ballad’ “New Death Sensation” brings, a song that occupies the middle ground between the two more introspective moments from their first album. Elsewhere that stoner-like sludge gets back in the driver’s seat and it’s more of what the band do so well, such as “Diab Soule” or the stand out track “Graveflower” with its wonderfully fuzzy guitar solo.
‘Acid Bath’ released two of my favourite metal albums from the 90s, and it’s a damn shame they couldn’t do more due to Audie Pitre’s untimely death, but two is better than none, and this album presents a harrowing and satisfying collection of songs that outstrip most of the material on the debut and should satisfy a lot of fans of sludge, heavy and death metal, and maybe even folks who like their rock with extra metal.