Arriving at an abandoned barn beneath a dead Autumn sky, Uncle Acid sets up a crackling tweed amp. Nestled between bales of hay he sings tales of murder, lust and horror. He is soon joined by two deadbeat musicians intent on the destroying the world as a barely held-together rhythm section.
Playing on battered instruments the trio record their songs onto a broken 8 track tape machine. With levels pushed into the red and smoke billowing from behind the mixing desk, the Blood Lust journey begins…
That’s the first two paragraphs of the short story on the back of the Blood Lust LP, and back in 2011 – before I’d heard anything like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – I believed every word. Uncle Acid himself was anonymous, and the band a formless morass, crashing around him on every track. The only voice you’ll hear is Uncle Acid himself: he sings in an unnerving, distorted falsetto , harmonizing with himself on every track. Where most Doom bands go low and slow with their vocalists, Acid sounds like a nursery rhyme, a whistling sing-song sometimes sharp, sometimes flat. He sounds like a particularly perverse time-traveller from some abandoned jam-band – if you’d told me at the time that this was one weird dude recording songs in an basement somewhere (and not a full band from Cambridge), I’d have believed you. The guitars are splattered across the walls, the drums are fuzzed-out to oblivion, and Uncle’s vocals are processed through an organ to groaning, blurred effect. At his best he sounds like early Ozzy’s forgotten, failed clone.
… And sometimes he sounds like he’s singing through the back-end of an accordion. This is especially true when he’s threatening the listener directly, because Blood Lust is a patchwork, corroded concept album about a murderer on a rampage. The killer is played by Uncle himself, because of course he is.
They’re the kind of rock band that originally called themselves The Sharon Tate Experience and seemed to wander into heavy metal organically. There are shades of Black Sabbath here, sure, but also Led Zeppelin. And like all bands that would call themselves The Sharon Tate experience, it’s all an immaculately produced act.
I got into Uncle Acid the same way everyone else did in 2011: word of mouth and a shady website. For their first album as a fully anonymous group (2010’s Volume 1), they sold about 30 CD-R’s at live shows, and that was the only way to get a hold of them. For Blood Lust, they released online, but only online, and again anonymously. Accompanying the album was the short story, the one that would later show up on the back of the LP, and the lyrics sheets: song after song detailing psychedelic, camp-soaked murder scenes and faux-occult rituals.
Surprising no one, they were an immediate hit.
Blood Lust was recorded on vintage equipment in a friend’s garage, so at least a third of their backstory is true. The album does sound rough, and it supports the snuff-film aesthetic that Uncle Acid (identified in the credits as K. R. Starr) and his bandmates Red and Kat obsessed over. You can tell it was recorded in a garage: hear the echo of the drums off the wall, the distance between Starr and his mic muffling his falsetto ever so slightly on songs like “13 Candles”. A lesser band might pass these off as the quirks of a literal garage band getting on its feet, but Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats leaned in. Their friend’s garage became the setting for their goofy, blood-soaked brand of Satanic slasher. The concrete walls were a virtue and Uncle Acid’s vocal ticks a boon – they became the warehouse murder scene and the killer’s unhinged call. Clicks and pops in the old recording gear were the quirks of vintage equipment, and their straightforward, late-60’s Doom sound an homage. Instead of being the greatest new metal band, they’d be the greatest lost metal band that ever was, springing fully-formed from the temple of 1970’s Black Sabbath.
It’s fitting that Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats would go on to open for Black Sabbath in 2013. They’re a fully-fledged touring band now, with another three albums under their belt. Uncle Acid has been unmasked as Kevin R. Starrs, and the rest of the band has been a revolving door since Kat and Red left after Blood Lust. Their later material goes on to be heavier, cleaner, and better produced, but they never sound like they did on Blood Lust again. It’s the sound of a young metal band firing on all cylinders, with all their quirks and limitations in check. Blood Lust is a minimalist exercise in heavy metal traditionalism: you won’t hear a band doing more with less without rewinding to the 70’s.
Someday when live concerts are a thing again, do yourself a favour and track Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats down. It’s a hell of a show.