Fate had it that my first contact with stoner metal be “Busse Woods”. Almost a decade later, I consider myself very lucky on that aspect, because I think that, in order to get hooked with a certain music genre, it is probably best to start with a band that glorifies the basic, foundational natures of that genre.
Those acquainted with the essence of ACID KING are probably smiling already reading the previous lines because, for anyone new to the game who might be reading this review, the Californian fuzzy riff pioneers do exactly that. I still remember the shock upon hearing the first notes of “Drive Fast, Take Chances”, the murky, repetitive bass sound of the guitar covering my mind like a veil and teaching me that less can be more.
And so, ten years after their last album and twenty years after their first, ACID KING have returned, to the glorious joy of their fans. Lots of things have changed since they went out of frame, with the main one being that stoner rock/metal has gained great commercial success and has finally left the dark corners of the metal underworld, let alone branch itself into other genres roots, creating truly fascinating stuff. So, for a band that helped greatly to lay the foundations of that genre, what is the same and what is different today and inside “Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere”?
Well, since this is ACID KING we are talking about, the fact that there is a new bass player is no surprise. What is the same though is what matters the most and those things are A) The song structure with the few, brain melting, mesmerizing riffs B) The ethereal voice and the guitar sound of Lori C) Billy –I-know-how-to-produce-a-motherfucking- stoner-record- Anderson. Though it might sound as an exaggeration, I think the last one is the most important of all, since a generic plastic production is one of my worst fears when having to review an album.
You won’t find any of that in here though. With Anderson’s production being thick like cement and ACID KING working their usual formula on those tortured instruments, you have nothing to fear. Like a good sauce that just needs a little bit of spice in the end to become magnificent, ACID KING infiltrate their take-the-riff-or- leave-it policy with a few well adjusted levels of psychedelia as you can already hear for yourself in the first notes of the plainly named “Intro”. Then we drift inside the cosmos of “Silent Pictures” which, as the title suggest is more of an atmospheric song, a bit hollow and melancholic though the psychedelic passages still come and go, rendering it more of an extension of the aforementioned “Intro”.
And just when you think that they might be turning into OM comes the “Wait kid, we got this” part, also known as “Coming Down From Outer Space” or the riff punch. Although it doesn’t drive me crazy, it gives the stigma for the rest of the album’s course. “Laser Headlights” on the other hand thrills the fuck out of my ears and is an instant classic in ACID KING discography, using the pattern we all loved in the first place, meaning a heavy as a 16 wheeler truck riff and Lori killing it on the vocals on top. Now that I think of it, this woman might have created my “fetish” for bands with extreme sound yet clean vocals (like WINDHAND for example).
Then comes “Red River”, a behemoth that slowly drugs its fuzz infested body through your speakers and commands you to close your eyes and chill out, with a bit of “Dopesmoker” stink on its conception. What is clearly noticeable is the amazing flow of this album, feeling like one big song broken to pieces (and no, I’m not still talking about “Dopesmoker”). Every song flows naturally in relation with the previous and the next one, leaving me to wonder if this was a big jam after all.
It doesn’t matter though, because when you listen to ACID KING the only thing you need is to let the power of the monolithic riff compel you; and being the riff dealers they are, they will satisfy this need of ours with “Infinite Skies” and “Center Of Everywhere”. The rhythm section is on fire and, needless to say, but Lori’s guitar sounds like a drunken titan banging his mountain-like hammer on an equally humongous anvil inside a volcano. Every now and again an echoing solo will burst out of nowhere to transcend your mind into a haze and make you wonder if there is any logic behind the badass art cover of a wizard riding a tiger on the moon.
I don’t know if there is, but there is definitely logic in what ACID KING do in here and have been doing in 20+ years and that is create an intoxicating atmosphere, through layers of beautifully adjusted heaviness with pinches of sickening beauty here in there to make your thoughts drift and swirl around your head after the end of each song, thus creating a discography in which so far the fillers are far and few between.
And although the bad news is that you might not be as thrilled with “Middle Of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere” as with their older efforts, the good news are that this is a record undoubtedly worthy to stand beside its predecessors and that one of the bands that influenced a great part of this genre has returned from oblivion to do what it does best; and still does it with success.
P.S: In April 29th we will have a chance to witness ACID KING live, along with BLACK COBRA. Now, there is something fun to do with your night!
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