Apr 7, 2014

From the Dustbin Returned: Acid Bath’s Paegan Terrorism Tactics (1996) ...

It’s more Southern than getting drunk off of moonshine in the Everglades, and yet, in a weird way, it is the sonic equivalent of Ulysses’ mythical journey. From eating dead flowers to nights spent with a wine red sea that might or might not be blood, “Paegan Terrorism Tactics”, the second album from the “gothic hardcore” creators of Acid Bath, is a near-perfect representative of what makes the New Orleans metal scene so terrifyingly important. Just one listen to today’s modern rock radio exposes this, and the fact that metalheads await the reunion of Acid Bath like it’s the Second Coming is further evidence of the band’s enduring legacy.

Most of this equation comes from the fact that Acid Bath oozed out to the larger world at a perfect time. Their combination of Southern rock, Sabbath-inspired doom, grunge, grindcore, and black metal not only made them a Cuisinart of sorts, but it also put them in-tune with the majority of their own audience. While the scene in the 1990s lacked the easy availability of music that so deeply characterizes our own epoch, metalheads have always been ahead of the curve insofar as tape trading and sonic globalization goes. So, by 1996, most American metalheads liked or at least knew about the different strains of metal that were then happening all around the globe. From the pagan church burners in Norway to the gory gut busters in Tampa, the everyday metalhead had a lot to choose from in the mid ‘90s.

Added to this music culture was a wider sub-culture that embraced all things transgressive. After breeding in the underground of 1980s New York, a megatoilet culture[1] began to seep into all the corners of the white underclass. During the ‘90s, this culture included Jim Goad’s “ANSWER Me!”, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, Howard Stern, and the earliest ancestors of the chat room. On a darker plane, the Waco siege, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, and eventually Columbine all pointed towards a nation gone to pot—a whole generation consumed by paranoia and bored because there was no Vietnam and Desert Storm pointed towards a new type of warfare that placed an emphasis on speed and minimal bloodletting (at least for the Western powers).

For the kids of the ‘90s, feelings of self-importance and self-loathing went hand-in-hand with morbid fascinations. Along with heroin chic, suicide chic was in. Murder was popular too, and from the Southern Gothicism of real-life vampire Roderick Farrell to the callousness of Shanda Sharer’s murderers, heavy metal in the Clinton decade had a wealth of source material.

Acid Bath took up these themes with gusto. Not only did they decorate their album covers with serial killer artwork (their debut was inked by John Wayne Gacy and Jack Kevorkian was the artist responsible for the harrowing image on “Paegan Terrorism Tactics”), but the lyrics of lead singer Dax Riggs also embraced a sardonic view of the teenage death fascination. Songs such as “Graveflower,” “Bleed Me An Ocean,” and “Dead Girl” all fetishized what Edgar Alan Poe called “the most poetical topic in the world”—the death of a beautiful woman.

Backing up the morose poetry of Riggs was the music itself, and on “Paegan Terrorism Tactics”, the music of Acid Bath reached a new height. Not only are all twelve songs exquisite, but they also highlight the depth of Acid Bath’s interest in the various sounds of the time. “New Death Sensation” toys with the structures of industrial music, while “Venus Blue” is a commercial power ballad that never caught on because of its subject matter. In particular, for listeners in 2013, “Venus Blue” sounds milquetoast and rather worn-out. This is because it, as well as the entire catalog of Acid Bath, has been copied ad infinitum by modern rock bands. These more popular acts not only ape the low tuning standards of sludge metal, but their flame-heavy fashion and their tacit appeals to sub-cultural darkness make them pale imitators of what made the ‘90s so cool. They are far too late and they should be shunned for their anemic showmanship.

Acid Bath, on the other hand, are the real thing, and “Paegan Terrorism Tactics” is their apex. Tragically, it was the band’s last full-length too. Not long after its release, bassist Audie Pitre was killed by a drunk driver on Louisiana’s Highway 24. Like Iry LeJeune before him, Pitre gave his last breath to the road, thus effectively ending Acid Bath. Still, despite this tragedy, “Paegan Terrorism Tactics” is still very much alive today and probably more so than any of its sludge contemporaries. In 1996, Acid Bath crafted a hymn to their directionless generation, and what was eventually produced became the shape of modern rock to come.

Words: by Benjamin Welton

[1] This phrase belongs to Samuel McPheeters, the former lead singer for Born Against, who wrote about the New York hardcore scene of the 1980s for Vice magazine (“Survival of the Streets”).

2 comments :

  1. The two Acid Bath's albums are both masterpieces; I'm 22 and I listen to them since I was 17, but I've never found an album that reminded me of those. I'm indeed one of those who awaits the reunion of Acid Bath like it’s the Second Coming. No better words. Hope it will happen, and soon.

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  2. So timeless work from the 2 releases of Acid Bath, remind me of a time when Sludge music wasn't Wizard-like like so many bands nowadays.
    such great words for a band that really deserves. the sound, the lyrics, the song writing, I still really dig it. Maybe one of the 90's band that I still Listen now (with Neurosis, Sleep and Electric Wizard etc etc). i remember, those lps were hard to find in France back in the days.

    really great band, really great tribute from Doommantia, I appreciate.

    sorry for my english, I'm French (Damn!!)

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