Album Review: Acid King — “Beyond Vision”

Heavy metal is a genre of music that thrives on the elemental.  Think of the cascading snow storms conjured by black metal guitars or the constant invocation of thunder when describing drums. The hometown of Acid King, San Fransisco, is known for two natural phenomena; earthquakes and fog. Sitting near the San Andreas fault line, a history of devastating earthquakes haunts the city’s history. The massive earthquake of 1906 destroyed the entire city while a 1989 earthquake delayed the Oakland Athletics trouncing their opponents and neighbors across the bay, the San Francisco Giants. The fog of San Francisco is such an ever present visual. The city’s fog envelopes the city in a way that it’s like being in a cloud. The city is so well known for its fog that it’s easy to associate something like the Carl Sandberg immortal poem to San Francisco, rather than to his home of Chicago. It’s a visual that inspired artists as diverse as writer Jack Kerouac and film director Guy Maddin. On their first album in eight years Beyond Vision, Acid King draw power from these two elemental forces. Beyond Vision hits with the power of an earthquake but wafts in and stays like that fog.

Like her doom metal contemporaries such as Sleep and Electric Wizard, Acid King’s city leveling riffs come as no surprise. Acid King maestro Lori S. always provides excellent riffs and grooves. The reverb drenched guitar tone on tracks like “Mind’s Eye” and “Electro Magnetic” come out of her amp weighing a ton. On Beyond Vision, she’s joined by Black Cobra’s Jason Landrian on guitar and synths. Black Cobra are known for their massive sound making his considerable talents for noise a perfect fit for the band. This is the kind of earth shattering volume a listener wants in a doom album.

Yet on Beyond Vision, Acid King expand the scope of their heaviness. Their previous album Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everything hinted at the band’s use of quieter sounds. Acid King fully embrace the idea of heaviness not only being an earthquake but also an enveloping fog. The opening notes of the album on “One Light Second Away” are not sludgy guitar riffs but the sound of synths wafting out of the speakers. “Electro Magnetic” eventually gets to heavy riffs but opens with industrial churning while a quieter, though no less electric, guitar eventually plays over that. Acid King has never been shy about their Black Sabbath worship but here they embrace bands like Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. Iommi guitar riffs remain but Richard Wright piano lines or Edgar Froese ambiance get to add a new layer of heaviness. Like the famous San Francisco fog, that ambiance envelops the guitar riffs and only make Acid King heavier. 

Image courtesy of Kevork Demirjian

In their thirty year career, Beyond Vision might be Acid King’s best album yet. Tectonic shifting riffage nestles comfortably with swirling synths and ambient soundscapes. That combination of earth moving guitars and ethereal synths only makes the band louder, somehow.

D. Morris

Beyond Vision is available now on Blues Funeral Recordings. For more information on Acid King, check out their official website and Instagram page.

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