Sunday 30 September 2018

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Wasteland (Album Review)

Release date: October 12th 2018. Label: Rise Above Records. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

Wasteland – Tracklisting

1.I See Through You
2.Shockwave City
3.No Return
4.Blood Runner
5.Stranger Tonight


I tell everyone who will listen that Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats is the best band out there. With eight years and four albums in the rear view mirror they should no longer be considered a “new” or “emerging” band. Molded by Rise Above Records from a shadowy, almost anonymous entity with no group photos that didn't do live shows to a touring band who opened for Black Sabbath across the UK, if there was ever a band that was in it for the music, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats is it. If they're new to you, do yourself a favor and dive into their last three albums. If you have a reverence for classic rock, stoner rock and evil vibes, there's a better than even chance you'll be hooked from the first run through the chorus of the now-iconic “I'll Cut You Down” to the finals strains of “Black Motorcade”. Uncle Acid is what The Beatles might have sounded like if Charles Manson and Black Sabbath had come first. And nothing can prepare you for the vocals. If you're already hooked, well, I've got this to say about the upcoming album.

One thing about Uncle Acid is that their albums are cinematic. A full play through of an Uncle Acid album is a bit like watching a movie play out, but it's wrong to call them concept albums. The songs are concise, self-motivated SONGS, never interludes, bridges or filler. But because there's a narrative thread, and because the band are masters of establishing and maintaining an overall mood to suit a theme, every song is important and warrants a focused listen. They lock onto a groove and ride it out but subtle changes make a major impact. Their changes and turnarounds are damn near perfect and make you sit up and take notice, the way your dad's subtle mood changes and gestures are important to note. This is a band with presence.

The theme of 'Wasteland' is a very near-future societal collapse and the struggle for survival, both individual and societal. Thematically, the story elements of the album are reminiscent of The Road, while Sonically, the mood reminds me of Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City. There's a pretty good reason for that, too. While the sound and mood of their 2013 album 'Mind Control' was steeped in 1968, evoking an over-indulged, hopped-up hippie cult on the mother of all summer of love hangovers, 'Wasteland's sound is very much rooted in 1980, from the opening strains of synth which sets the tone for the album to the muscular, almost Judas Priest or Never Say Die-like “Blood Runner” or “Stranger Tonight” the band never strays far from a vision of the future as seen from nostalgic eyes, wary but hopeful, braced but unprepared.

But, what you really want to know is: is 'Wasteland' better than their last one? Well, 'Wasteland' displays more of a progression than the last one. Every Uncle Acid album, indeed every Uncle Acid song is, in many ways, the same, but different. 'Wasteland' is arguably the most varied effort of the band's career, and unless I missed my guess, I'd wager it's because for the first time the band is writing songs with a live performance in mind. From the opening curtain of “I see through you” to the final dark turn of “Exodus”, Uncle Acid runs the listener ragged through the most epic sonic journey they've offered yet. “No Return” might be the slowest song the band has ever released (it might also be their heaviest and even possibly, their best yet). It's immediately followed up with what may be their fastest ever, “Blood Runner”. There are moments the band allows the listener to catch their breath before the next fateful turn. 'Wasteland' showcases some of the most masterful songwriting of their career with some of the most furious, scorching leads they've yet unleashed. Everything about this album is a step up, a new level of confidence and power.

You'll rarely encounter a band with such a strong identity. If every Uncle Acid song is the same, but different, it's because they're guided by a strong, confident vision. If you don't know exactly who you are and where you're going, you'll never be confident in what you do. So, the question of whether this new album is “better” than their last is moot. Simply put, this band sneezes and a classic record flies out and 'Wasteland' is arguably Uncle Acid's most ambitious album to date. Uncle Acid has found a way to progress everything they do without sacrificing their greatest strength, which is a their instantly recognizable sound.

Here's a track by Track breakdown, if you're one for the spoilers. If not, then look away, quickly:

I See Through You – ominous synth notes build atop a public address announcement that the state has been declared a disaster and gives way to the best opening riff to an album I've heard in ages. Shades of pre-disco Kiss in this riff. I didn't think they'd ever top “I'll Cut You Down” as an album opener, yet here we are. This automatically becomes an essential Uncle Acid song.

Shockwave City – Another terrific song, staying in that proto-metal vein, but still very much in the Uncle Acid style. Possibly the most true to form the band gets on this album.

No Return - again, possibly the band's slowest, heaviest and maybe even best song yet. This thing is sinister, marauding, intimidating even. A good spot for the doomiest Uncle Acid song yet as it comes with the revelation that all hope of a return to normalcy is lost in the album's narrative. Some synth in the background here. I'll point out that Uncle Acid nails cyberpunk dystopia without having to go over the top electro.

Blood Runner – once more, this is the fastest, most metal song in the band's catalogue. It absolutely sounds like a chase scene through dripping, crumbling concrete jungle. It comes close to capturing that early Iron Maiden melodic punk aesthetic.

Stranger Tonight – a strong follow-up. Frantic, uptempo, another future classic, staying in that proto-metal vein.

Wasteland – this mostly acoustic epic is smothered in spaghetti western sauce and builds up nicely in the middle to a satisfying conclusion. This song marks a significant change in the album's tone, from the familiar, if decaying urban world of lean, muscular riffs to a Ennio Morricone laden western feel of a desert wanderer.

Bedouin – this song is nearly indescribable. It almost reminds me of some old Mega Man music and carries over a slight Morricone influence from the last song. Melancholic, yet energetic. This song is insane. I can't tell if those sounds are coming from a guitar or synth, they almost sound like horns. Sabbath vibes of the more experimental moments of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'/ 'Sabotage' kind.

Exodus – the big finish, this one's got that last call feel. The whole second half of the record is Morricone meets Sabbath as married by Uncle Acid. Just incredible. At first it seems like the album's narrative ends on a hopeful note until the music darkens before giving way to a low howling wind right at the end. Because it's Uncle Acid the story must end on a malevolent note, like the trickster god was waiting for just the right moment to intervene. A pitch perfect ending to an incredible album which seems to dot the I and cross the t of the band's intended hopeless, doomed message.

And that's it, Uncle Acid's new album, and what an album it is. New fan, old fan, sceptical and suspicious, there's no way you won't fall in love with this album, double negatives be damned!

Words by LK Ultra

Wasteland will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl from Rise Above Records and all good stockists from October 12th 2018.