Drunk drivers fucking suck. On January 23, 1997, Acid Bath bassist Audie Pitre and his parents were killed by one who blew through a stop sign, ending one of the most creative sludge bands in the history of metal music, let alone in the New Orleans, Louisiana music scene. On a more personal note, it also ending one of my all-time favorite bands. However, from the ashes of Acid Bath birthed two considerable entities. Guitarist Sammy Duet would spend some time with Crowbar before making a name for himself in Goatwhore (with Soilent Green‘s vocalist Ben Falgoust in tow). Meanwhile, Acid Bath frontman Dax Riggs and guitarist Mike Sanchez would continue on with Agents of Oblivion, taken from a line from Paegan Terrorism Tactics‘s bonus track “The Beautiful Downgrade,” and their self-titled debut is today’s subject matter for a long-overdue Yer Metal is Olde! piece.
For those not familiar with Dax Riggs’ solo work (or those who only know of him from his days in Acid Bath), a word of warning should be given right now. This is easily one of the least metal Yer Metal is Olde! tributes we have ever done. The only way this album could be considered metal is because of Sanchez’s and Riggs’ involvement with Acid Bath (or the electrified cover of said band’s iconic “Dead Girl” off their final album, 1996’s Paegan Terrorism Tactics). Otherwise, if you are expecting to be floored by one of the most mesmerizing albums of 2000, look no further.
With Dax gently crooning “It’s only the end of the world again,” “Endsmouth” gently pulls you into its chimerical world with its very simplistic-yet-effective chord progressions from both Riggs and Sanchez, heavy-yet-not-overbearing drumming by Jeff McCarty, and dreamlike piano lines by Chuck Pitre (no relation to Audie). From this early on, you can tell that Riggs had gone from a bitter, angry death/sludge vocalist, to the dreamy, melodramatic, and certainly moving vocalist and songwriter that he is today, and this album is the genesis of his current persona. In fact, it’s not outrageous to say that he’s easily the star of this album, even though the band definitely puts in some stellar performances. The “Nawlins Crawl” that permeates “A Song That Crawls” is catchy as hell. The aforementioned cover of “Dead Girl” is beautiful and made more confident by Riggs’s delivery, as is their cover of T. Rex‘s beautiful “Cosmic Dancer.”
But for all the sludgy-yet-not-metal beauty this album gives off, it’s in the ballads where this record truly shines. “Phantom Green” features some of Riggs’ most beautiful vocal melodies. “Wither,” at once both dreamy and haunting, breezes gently before Riggs repeats the original verse of the song, adding urgency and pain. But it’s “The Hangman’s Daughter” where the album truly glimmers. Three chords, beautiful piano melodies, a simple driving bassline by Alex Bergeron, and some of Riggs’ most incredible vocal performances to date, with the chorus “No man can hold what the darkness can sow/Gonna leave an ugly skull when you go” lingering long after the song finishes playing. Truth be told, to this very day, this is my favorite song to play on guitar and sing for friends and family, and a litmus test for other folk acts to follow.
Sadly, Agents of Oblivion would fold after releasing this album. While most of the band would go about their separate ways, Dax has made a career for himself with Deadboy and the Elephantmen before crooning with his own eponymous band. If you’re a fan of Acid Bath, or just love good swampy, bluesy rock, do yourself a huge favor and pick this album up post-haste. It truly is a work of beautiful, heart-wrenching art.
*Writer’s note: Usually, when we feature a band, whether it’s a review or a tribute piece such as this one, we make a point to include a YouTube video of one of the band’s songs so fans and readers can check out the band. That said, there are no Agents of Oblivion videos anywhere on YouTube or other sites, and it’s because of Rotten Records (their old label) taking them down, and it’s a damn shame. If there are bands that are deserving of having their music heard, it’s both Acid Bath and Agents of Oblivion. Here’s hoping the label execs will read this and have a change of heart, as these two bands are an important part of metal history, and should be given a second life. The bands, fans, and readers deserve that. –Grymm*