With the horror of Black Friday nearly upon us, it's oddly appropriate that so much black magic rock has been coming our way this week... yesterday we shared the occult-themed gothic doom/groove of Bloody Hammers (here's the review) and today we're going to take a listen to another up-and-coming act in the genre, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, who have crawled up from the underground to a wide release on legendary label Metal Blade Records with their second EP Blood Lust. The record was self-released by the band last year, and despite being an extremely limited release, it quickly became a cult hit. Now that it's become more widely accessible, and the band's first full-length album is slated to drop in 2013, now is a perfect time to sample their horror-themed vintage vibe.
While the band's identity is still kept obscure (the label merely describes them as an “anonymous cult of horror-worshiping fiends” and a “drug-crazed coven of freaks”) and their first recordings were only available though mail-order, they have nevertheless developed a steady cult following, with the older material going for some major coin on eBay. While a touch more aggressive than many psychedelic, occult-doom or stoner metal groups who worship at the altar of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, Uncle Acid nevertheless will take you back to that same mode of early '70s dark rock, aided in large part by vintage production and a bluesy garage-style energy. The chief difference, and an element that no doubt contributes to their cult status, is a solid thematic connection to horror in line with bands like Mercyful Fate.
A swirling organ drone and march-style drumming underscores the harmonic double-lead guitar of "I'll Cut You Down,” an up-tempo number riding on chunky, catchy syncopated riff and Uncle's distinctive multi-tracked falsetto, which sounds like a hybrid of Ozzy Osbourne and King Diamond. It kicks off the EP with high energy, establishing early on that the band isn't locked into droning stoner doom mode. Even the slower-tempo "Death's Door" has a foot-stomping groove, and "Over and Over Again" has a brighter, warmer tone that brings the band in alignment with Sweden's melodic occult rockers Ghost – although the excellent vocal harmonies are upstaged by the slamming rhythm riffs. Now that I've established that Uncle Acid are not simply cut-and-pasting Sabbath, I'll have to make a exception with "Curse in the Trees,” which could pass for a mash-up of any number of early Sabbath tracks, but it's still heavy as hell and demonstrates how evil the band can sound.
A bluesier garage-rock feel comes through in "I'm Here to Kill You,” which is surprisingly light-hearted in rhythm and melody given its lyrical subject matter, that being one of many songs about ritual murder (obviously the song's narrator loves his job). "13 Candles" injects some bluesy blood into the formula, accentuated by the background wailing of Hammond organ and a slippery main riff. The most overt occult song (and my personal fave) is "Ritual Knife,” with a dark riff that's menacing in its urgent simplicity and a creepy chord progression in the chorus. Another raunchy blues riff drives "Withered Hand of Evil," which adds a touch of Mellotron strings for that true '70s vibe, and brighter-sounding vocals. The Metal Blade re-release includes the bonus cut "Down to the Fire,” a lush acoustic piece that adds a dash of Led Zeppelin to their haunting recipe, ending with a surprisingly melancholy instrumental coda.
2012 has definitely been a banner year for old-school occult rock, and while Blood Lust was actually released (in a small way) last year, it's more than capable of standing tall among the newest releases from Witchsorrow, The Foreshadowing, Hour of 13 and Draconian, to name only a few. With a full-length album in the works for next year, it sounds like the trend will continue, and this re-release should satisfy fans' appetites until then. Speaking of which... how about feasting upon this DIY video for "Ritual Knife” and see if you can identify the clips from obscure grindhouse devil flicks from the '60s and '70s.