Author: BD Joyce
- Artist: Acid Bath
- Album: Paegan Terrorism Tactics
- Year of Release: 1996
- Country: USA
- Label: Rotten Records
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: 3044-2
Two years after Acid Bath made waves in the metal underground with their sensational debut When The Kite String Pops, they released this, their second and final album Paegan Terrorism Tactics. After courting controversy with the John Wayne Gacy artwork sported by their previous album, the band adorned the sleeve of the follow-up with a Jack Kevorkian painting. In some respects, despite again choosing to be visually represented by a convicted murderer, the choice of Kevorkian actually demonstrates a growing maturity – Kevorkian’s conviction being for assisting the suicide of a terminally ill man, rather than the senseless killing of innocent victims. This increased level of sophistication is also evident in the band’s music, with Paegan Terrorism Tactics offering a more focussed and sharper set of songs than the debut, but without sacrificing any of the multi-valent extreme metal genre-hopping that characterises their sound.
The album opens with the hugely impactful quasi-title track ‘Paegan Love Song’. Boasting the band’s biggest and perhaps best riff, the track is a musical tsunami of devastating power, annihilating everything in its path, Dax Riggs’ searing vocals slicing through the supremely thick guitar tone that will be familiar to fans of When The Kite String Pops. The aforementioned riff is relatively simple in structure, but the band develop this monolithic groove in numerous subtle directions throughout the first half of the song – Jimmy Kyle’s ever-excellent drum arrangements constantly mutating through complex double-kick patterns, and the band experiment with occasionally layering additional rhythm guitars to thicken the sound, as well as injecting short bursts of energising chord sequences which propel the song forward. Riggs’ haunting and chilling lyrics, recounting the band’s own experiences with psychedelics and opiates, add an additional grimy ingredient to a complex recipe, and the twisted nursery rhyme feel of “You scream, I scream, everybody screams for morphine” queasily and memorably subverts the listener’s expectations, elevating the song into a true anti-anthem for the damned, even before the Type O Negative-style doomy dirge that dominates the second half of the song emerges from a howl of feedback to complete a magnificent epic that seems to contain a lifetime within its exhausting six minute runtime.
As the album continues through song after brilliant song, Acid Bath demonstrate their class by pulling off the difficult trick of working through a range of styles (albeit within the milieu of rock, metal and punk), and offering fascinating variation, but at all times sounding exactly like Acid Bath. It shows an admirable strength of vision to be able to so effectively bend and shape a plurality of influences and inspirations into a singular, identifiable and cohesive whole, and that Acid Bath managed to execute their sound so successfully, despite being dissolute in so many other ways is quite remarkable.
It is to Acid Bath’s immense credit that so consistently high is the quality of composition, that it is difficult to single out any particular song as the album’s peak – instead the album is a mountain range, a vista of pinnacles stretching as far as the eye can see, each one offering a different and unique perspective, but stunningly impressive when viewed as a whole. On any given listen, attention could be drawn to the almost celebratory classic metal riff buried midway through the glacial doom of ‘Graveflower’, the industrial breakdown and clanging mechanical percussion embellishing the climax of the otherwise brutally death metal ‘Locust Spawning’, or the triumphant d-beat hardcore chugging of ‘New Corpse’. The next, however, might focus instead on the petrifying, and raw sludge of ’13 Fingers’, or the merauding riff and coruscating vocal of ‘Diäb Soulé’. Paegan Terrorism Tactics bears the unmistakeable mark of many a great album, and continues to reveal itself many years and listens after its initial release.
Although Acid Bath’s career was disappointingly short, the result is a back catalogue that is close to perfect. More than that, notwithstanding a hidden track which appears after 20 minutes of silence, the album, and indeed the band’s discography as a whole, ends on a fitting bittersweet note, with the calm after the storm of ‘Dead Girl’. A grungy acoustic ballad that in parts recalls Nirvana’s more maudlin moments, it also offers a clear signpost for Riggs’ musical output post-Acid Bath. As the song is transformed during its second half by a modulation into major key, the song resonates with a modicum of hope, the suggestion of possible redemption following the crazed nihilism of two albums worth of frightening sludge. Somewhat underappreciated during their all too brief existence, Paegan Terrorism Tactics is the crowning glory of a unimpeachable brace of underground metal classics, ensuring that their legacy will only continue to grow in their absence.