Groundbreakers: Acid Bath – When The Kite String Pops
The music that comes out of the bayou in New Orleans, Louisiana is a reflection of the hot swampy environment and voodoo culture that permeates the air. If you are familiar with Noisey’s 7 part documentary on the metal scene in that area then you got a peek into some of the scene’s most prominent and influential bands. But there was one glaring omission in that piece, and it was right there in plain sight.
Everything about Acid Bath’s When The Kite String Pops is down right schizophrenic. From serial killer John Wayne Gacey’s portrait of Pogo The Clown album cover to the vast array of musical styles to the eerie lyrics that are delivered using tortured screams and some soulful gothic crooning, it is clear that this record is the result of five individuals and all their musical backgrounds thrown into a blender, stirred up, and served on a corroded hot plate for your consumption. Albums like this aren’t planned; they are the result of these five guys in a room jamming their hearts and souls out. They made this album for themselves before they made it for anybody else.
When I involuntarily volunteered to take on the task of writing about WTKSP for Groundbreakers, I faced numerous questions – What bands of today were influenced by them? How is what they did ground breaking? These questions are about as perplexing as Acid Bath’s music. In order to better grasp what this album represented, you must put it in a time capsule and discuss it in its historical context.
The year was 1994 and Rotten Records released Acid Bath’s When The Kite String Pops into the metalsphere for eager listeners. To give some perspective on what was popular that year, here are some albums released around the same time; click here for an expanded list:
- Alice In Chains – Jar of Flies
- Cannibal Corpse – The Bleeding
- Dark Throne – Transilvanian Hunger
- Kyuss – Welcome to Sky Valley
- Machine Head – Burn My Eyes
- Pantera – Far Beyond Driven
- Obituary – World Demise
All of the above were great albums for these artists, but it speaks to the musical trends of that time in heavy metal’s history. These artists and their albums all stylistically can more or less be filed under one sub genre of metal (i.e. grunge, death metal, black metal, stoner rock, groove metal, etc.), and that’s why WTKSP is so unique. At the time of its release, it was casting a wide net across the metal spectrum and engulfing multiple sub genres within it.
As someone who was around at the time of its release, I’m guilty of skipping over this album because I was an impressionable young man and 18-year-old me took record reviews as gospel. I remember specifically reading a review of WTKSP in Metal Maniacs magazine which I bought monthly like a good little metalhead nerd should. The review basically proclaimed that the album was all over the place and was too long. It asked “what is this band doing?”, “what are they trying to achieve?”, “who is their target audience?”. Having read that, I was unwilling to throw down $15 of my hard earned cash on a CD that I might have had trouble following even though I had already heard and enjoyed the track “Tranquilized”. Not having the benefit of the internet and not having a friend who owned the album so I could check it out caused me to pass on it. So what does that tell you? First, the reviewer from Metal Maniacs was a narrow minded dildo who assumed his audience would only enjoy a band playing a specific style of metal at this time, so he discarded WTKSP and continued on in his search to bring you the next Reign In Blood. The second thing it tells you is that when you look at it in retrospect, it was ahead of its time. Acid Bath was combining sludge, doom, stoner rock, death metal, punk, and thrash in a volatile powder keg that exploded in your face once it was lit. Those kind of practices are commonplace in today’s vast sea of music, but again there was little to none of this happening in 1994. Thus the reaction in the picture below from many who listened to it at the time:
That said WTKSP, is a wild roller coaster ride of an album that is still fresh, innovative, and new to this day despite being almost 21 years old. This album can almost pull up a chair at the local bar and order itself a drink. But you don’t have to be of legal drinking age to enjoy this album. Acid Bath is your bartender for WTKSP. But he doesn’t have a license and is daring you to drink the various cocktails that he’s mixing. The ingredients for these elixirs were Jimmy Kyle’s drumming which adapted to the many tempo changes and shifts within the bands music. The guitar playing of Sammy Duet and Mike Sanchez tag teamed riffs ranging from stoner rock, doom, punk, death metal, sludge,thrash, and even folk on some the band’s more somber compositions. The bass playing of Audie Pitre (R.I.P.) provided the backbone and foundation to back up all the guitar and drums. A listener will find experimentation with such effects as flange and distortion throughout the album when the bass takes center stage in any song. Then the bartender adds the maraschino cherry to your drink in the form of vocalist Dax Riggs who lyrically takes you to places you should not go and shows you things you should not see. But you’ve already pressed play, the genie is out of the bottle, and you cannot unsee or unhear these things. Lastly, the album was produced by D.R.I.’s Spike Cassidey who did a great job of capturing the band’s sound on this phenomenal record.
So what’s in store for someone who dares take a sip of that cocktail that Acid Bath is offering you? Trying to describe the album as a whole just does’t do it justice so what we’ll do instead is highlight some of the standout tracks from the album. Each track has its own distinct feel and no two songs are alike.
- “Tranquilized” – Easily the band’s most accessible song that starts off with a bluesy rock riff while utilizing a wah pedal for effect. The second guitar plays soulful leads over the riff while Riggs spouts out his drug fueled vision of the world through his gothic-sounding mouthpiece (for a point of reference the melodic vocals are in the vein of Life of Agony’s Keith Caputo). The second half of the song descends into a stoner doom sludge riff while the second guitar continues to play leads over it all. The lyrics on this track are both disturbing and catchy when coupled with the vocal delivery – “They’re dying of rabies, eating their babies, In fields of dead daisies, I live tranquilized”
- “Cassie Eats Cockroaches” – Powered by samples from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, this song is the final track on the album and utilizes quite a bit of death metal elements as the vocals go back and forth between melody and screaming. If you’ve seen Blue Velvet and are familiar with Dennis Hopper’s character in that film then the use of the “Don’t you fucking look at me!” sample will help seal the deal on this track for you.
- “Scream of The Butterfly” – If you are an avid reader of this site and follow our Riff Ov The Week segment, you’ll remember that the opening bass line for this track was voted by readers as the best bass riff. And that bass line carries this track while the clean guitars that accompany it bring to mind “Floods” by Pantera off The Great Southern Trendkill. No screaming on this one, just straight singing and a great vocal performance all around. Of particular note is the use of the double bass kick drum towards the end of the song which works well despite the unconventional pairing with clean guitars.
That’s just a sample of what you are in for when you listen to this album. As previously mentioned, every track has its own feel and identity to it, so there are 11 more tracks to get into beyond these. To get the full effect of this album, you should really read the lyrics, as they are dark and disturbing yet vivid and colorful.
Now to answer the question, “what current bands are influenced by Acid Bath?” The answer is none. There is not a single band out there that sounds anything remotely like Acid Bath and yet this album could be released today and listeners would eat it up like candy. The ground breaking thing about this album is that it has transcended time. It was misunderstood when it came out and limited to only a cult following. When The Kite String Pops is one of the first albums that was mashing multiple genres together, and it may have been tough for listeners to digest at the time. Fast forward to today, you’ll find many artists combining multiple styles together and making it their own. While you may not be able to draw a direct correlation to Acid Bath, you cannot deny that this was happening in music long before it became a sexy thing to do. So if you are an aspiring band and you want to be darlings of the metal underground, try your hand at emulating Acid Bath. If you can somehow match the remarkable feat of what they accomplished over two decades ago, your musical career will be in good shape.
Perhaps strangest of all is that you cannot find the album anywhere on the Youtubes due to copyright claims. But being the resourceful guy that I am, I found a website that is steaming it so: Stab this mother fucking link and listen to one of the best of albums of all time! And if you are hopelessly lonely and want to be teased by some woman shadow dancing to “Mortician’s Flame” you can stab here if you are into that sort of thing. When you’re done with all that, move on over to Acid Bath’s second album Pagan Terrorism Tactics which is as equally astounding as this one. (Note: The Fish God prefers PTT over WTKSP, but it’s really too close to call in terms of which one is better).
So if you were one of the few who picked this up back in the day and felt it was a great album, do the Barry Horowitz and give yourself a pat on the back. You were ahead of the curve on this one.
Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.
Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic
Fear Factory – Demanufacture
Voivod – Killing Technology
Today is the Day – Temple of the Morning Star
Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed