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Acid Drinkers never fail to surprise me - 80%

Ziemniax, February 24th, 2013

Ever since Litza's departure, Acid Drinkers weren't able to keep a rhythm guitarist for more than four years. There was Perła, who introduced a curious breed of heaviness and indie rock-y way of thinking, the random Lipa who didn't bring in anything relevant, and the late, (good) metalcore-influenced Olass. The current axeman on Titus' left goes by the stage name Jankiel. This is the first studio album for which he contributed material. And boy, is his influence audible.

The first thing one immediately notices about this album is the sound of the guitars. Dirty yet clear - as per the new rhythm guitarist's sludge/stoner tastes. Does that imply that Acid Drinkers play sludge now? Hell na. Though one or two tracks are a homage to this particular subgenre in their own right. The drums are just about right for this album's sound - neither too spacious or too compressed. And the bass, like usual, is just there to fill the low register. And the vocals - hell, I don't believe Titus has ever been in a better shape. He is no Warrel Dane, granted, but Acid Drinkers have never been about technicality and demented screams. Titus' voice on "La Part du Diable" is powerful, carrying and spacious. As for Jankiel, who sings lead vocals on two tracks and backing on most of the others - he's a curious one, no two ways about it. If I were to describe his voice, I'd say it sounds like a crossbreed between Ozzy Osbourne, Fred Flintstone, and your local, neighbourhood bum. In a very good way. Of all the secondary vocalists after Litza, Jankiel sounds the best when it comes to singing in unison with Titus. Oh, and the solos - even though the copious amounts of wah could put Kirk Hammett himself to shame, they sound very decent, albeit there's nothing outstandingly special about them.

The songs form a nice mishmash of various influences. There are thrashy songs ("Kill the Gringo", "The Trick", the awesome, Slayer-esque "Bundy's DNA", "The Payback"), sludgy songs ("V.O.O.W.", "Dance Semi-Macabre"), some Sabbath-influenced stuff (the desert-vibed "Old Sparky", "Andrew's Strategy", "Broken Real Good", "On the Beautiful Bloody Danube"), and the mandatory new oddity (the chill-yet-still-heavy "Zombie Nation"). I'm pretty sure every metal fan will find something for themselves. The thrashy songs, despite the present-since-circa-2010 kinderthrasher fad in Poland, are nothing in the vein of the ever-so-abundant generic Slayer/Kreator rip-offs. I'm not really a fan of those songs, but "Bundy's DNA" decidedly stands out. Actually, it sounds like Slayer in their prime. Except that it has better production and Titus' awesome vocals. The sludgy ones, given the fact that sludge is a niche subgenre, give most listeners a hard time - they are not the kind of metal Acid Drinkers got us used to, so they come as a surprise, but they're pretty damn good in their own right. Well, "Dance Semi-Macabre" might be just a bit better, as it's sung by Jankiel, who, being a fan of the genre himself, has a greater understanding of how it works. As for the rest - while "Broken Real Good" and "On the Beautiful Bloody Danube" are pretty decent songs, they are nowhere near as awesome as the rest. The single, "Old Sparky", is a mid-tempo song with a very catchy chorus. "Andrew's Strategy", a sinister, nightmare like... ballad, if you will, about Anders Breivik, explores a teritorry Acid Drinkers haven't ventured to before. It was actually a song written for Ślimak and Jankiel's other band, Flapjack, but they had no idea what to do with it, so they brought it here. And it was a good decision - I mean, Flapjack's vocalist is good at what he does in his genre, but I absolutely can't imagine him singing this song better than Titus. And then there's Jankiel's "autonomous" song, "Zombie Nation". From what he told me in an interview a week after the album's premiere, it was supposed to be a joke, sporting just 12 lines of lyrics and only two distinct riffs, but... I just cannot help but love it. It's such a perfect song to drop in the armchair and have a beer or six to after an excruciating day at work. Think Pantera's "Walk" filtered through the positive, chill vibe not uncommonly associated with Black Label Society. 4 minutes and 20 seconds of rad, simplistic mastery.

Sooo. Looks like it's time to conclude, eh? Heavy and varied, that's what this album is. A pleasant surprise after a not-so-pleasant one in the form of Olass' premature death in 2008. But then again, how could one not expect surprises from a band that dished out "Vile Vicious Vision" and "High Proof Cosmic Milk" in a mere five years' distance?