Live Review: Acid King at Atlanta’s Drunken Unicorn Oct. 23

After a 22 year career, underground rock pioneers Acid King made their Atlanta debut Friday, October 23, at the Drunken Unicorn, in support of Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. This is their first album since 2005’s Acid King III. With Sleep and Neurosis performing at the Masquerade in May and August respectively, Acid King completes an unholy triumvirate of Bay Area doom pioneers descending on Atlanta in 2015.

More groove oriented than Neurosis, more psychedelic than Sleep, Acid King forged their own musical identity in early and mid nineties in a genre that would come to have the unfortunate moniker of “stoner rock.” Their influence can be heard in countless bands formed in their wake. Slow, heavy riffs are the foundation of their songs, but subtle differences distinguish them from the masses of bands they’ve influenced. Guitarist Lori S. often punctuates the spaces between the riffs with stray notes or short leads that seem to float in space over the rhythm section, echoing the cosmic lyrical themes of the new songs and frequently reinforcing the melody. The ethereal quality of these fills contrasts with the heaviness of the riffs expanding the sonic range of each song. Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil refers to this in his own playing as “color guitar” as opposed to lead guitar. Lori approaches the guitar in a comparable artistic manner while still maintaining her own signature sound.

The same holds true for drummer Joey Osborne. Acid King songs are similarly slow in tempo. It would be easy for a drummer to become complacent and allow the songs to fall into mediocrity.  Osbourne supplies tasteful fills to accentuate his beats without overplaying the songs.  Along with bassist Mark Lamb, who joined the band in 2006, they form a solid rhythm foundation.  Acid King has had a number or bassists over the years, but seem to have found a permanent member as Lamb also contributed heavily to the songwriting on this album.

Lori S. has been forthcoming in interviews about her limited vocal range, but she underrates herself as a vocalist, at least in terms of vocal presence. Her vocals were louder in the mix than they generally are on the albums emphasizing her strength as a singer.  She has her own style. There are no high pitch metal screams, no cookie monster growls. She instead allows her echo-drenched, otherwordly voice to hover over the massive riffs like a metal version of Mazzy Star.

With the average song clocking in at the seven to eight minute range, there wasn’t time to play a lot of songs from past albums. Instead, they concentrated mostly on tracks off the new record, including “Red River,” Infinite Skies,” and “Coming Down from Outer Space,” They did, however, play a crowd favorite “Two Wheel Nation” off the 2005 album Acid King III.

The U.S. tour continues through the first of November.  No further dates have been posted, but they will most likely return to Europe or Japan, where audiences have been more receptive in the past. Hopefully, American fans have convinced them to tour here again soon.


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