Full admission: this is easily one of the toughest Yer Metal is Olde! pieces I have written so far. It’s not so much the flood of memories that comes with the recollection of a particular album’s impact on myself, let alone other music fans. But rather, unlike most inductees, there is a major “What if?” scenario that plays in my head whenever I spin Paegan Terrorism Tactics, the second (and final) album by Louisiana’s bipolar sludge/doom gods Acid Bath. Unlike their contemporaries, who would either abruptly change styles, disband, or ride their influences into the horizon, Acid Bath‘s journey was cut short due to the untimely death of bassist Audie Pitre who, along with members of his family, was killed by a drunk driver on January 23rd, 1997. Even then, you have to wonder, given the material on Paegan Terrorism Tactics, if the band would have released another record.
That’s not to say that Paegan Terrorism Tactics was a horrible album. Far from it, in fact. Their debut (and fellow YMIO inductee), 1994’s When the Kite String Pops, blew our minds with its sludgy riffing, abrupt style changes between (and even within) songs, and drugged out stream-of-consciousness lyrics screamed and crooned by vocalist Dax Riggs. Acid Bath took that sound, reined it in a bit, and crafted 12 songs1 ranging in moods so drastically different that it feels like two separate bands working together. What remained was the core line-up, cover art by a controversial figurehead (in this case, by Dr. Jack Kevorkian), and the suffocatingly sludgy atmosphere. And yet, miraculously, Paegan Terrorism Tactics works, and works beautifully in all of its ugly, sinister glory.
You can even trace the birth of not one, but two bands with this album. “Locust Spawning,” easily the most black metal-influenced song Acid Bath would ever write, wouldn’t sound so out-of-place on guitarist Sammy Duet’s post-Acid Bath band, Goatwhore until the spacey mid-section hits. Elsewhere, the acoustic “Dead Girl,” showcasing the improvement in Riggs’ singing voice, would later be reworked by his post-Acid Bath project, Agents of Oblivion. But the best example of the two distinctly different worlds colliding to form a truly transcendent song belongs to “Venus Blue.” Duet and fellow guitarist Mike Sanchez crafted a near lullaby with their strumming and chord structures, whereas drummer Jimmy Kyle provides a solid, sturdy backbone. Riggs’ voice carries the song to such elevated heights that it became Acid Bath‘s calling card. In fact, if it weren’t for the violent lyrics (“Slow desolation like a funeral procession/The lovely one screams like she’s caught between stations/I eat the razor, a mouthful of God’s flesh/Sweating this blackness, I am shitting this cold death”), “Venus Blue” could have easily played on the radio.
And just as When the Kite String Pops was massively influential and beloved, so too was Paegan Terrorism Tactics. In fact, on the many occasions when I talked to people about Acid Bath, whether online or face-to-face, and we asked each other what our top five favorite songs of theirs were, we would all have radically different answers. The beauty of it was, quite simply, none of us were wrong. From the schizophrenic energy of the debut through the controlled sludge of Paegan, the hypnotic pull created by Acid Bath is otherworldly and intoxicating. I can’t even begin to think of another band’s output that even comes close to it. The mark they left with just two albums (and a collection of demos) was immeasurable and enviable.
But even if Pitre were still alive, given the rumored in-fighting and different influences, the likelihood of another Acid Bath album was doubtful. Still, I would have gleefully preferred that scenario over the one that unfortunately transpired. Even more painful are the near-yearly rumors of the surviving members putting aside their differences, and working on new music – a rumor that has has been debunked time and again by the members themselves. But as a friend put it, Acid Bath were lightning in a bottle, and that lightning crafted two albums that were absolutely near-perfect. We will always have them to cherish, now and forever.2
- I count the hidden spoken word piece at the end, “The Beautiful Downgrade,” as a song. ↩
- It’s a shame that, no matter how many people put up videos of their songs on Youtube or Soundscloud, Rotten Records are quick to pull them down. Rotten would do the world a huge service by introducing a new wave of metalheads to the ingenuity, intensity, and amazing songwriting of Acid Bath and Agents of Oblivion. ↩