Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats

Wasteland

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Over the course of the 2010s, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats have charted a course that runs directly back to the era when psychedelia turned dark, amps got louder, and riffs turned to metal. Each of their albums has sounded like it was unearthed from some rotting vault, hidden from sight by years of dust and neglect, yet somehow sounding fresher than anything else one might care to compare it to. The band's leader, Kevin A. Starrs, has a vision that he won't compromise, and every note the band plays sticks closely to the script. Released in 2018, Wasteland is no different, and it falls right in line with the exceptional records that have come before it. Recorded in Los Angeles at Sunset Sound, using the same echo chamber Van Halen used in the '70s, then finished at Starrs' home studio, the album has a lo-fi, staticky sound that's even fuzzier than the AM radio buzz they got on 2015's The Night Creeper, which is really saying something. It sounds like Black Sabbath at the bottom of a deep pit with Starrs' vocals pushed into the red, the guitars clashing and grinding tinnily, the solos slashing the speakers like hot rain, and the bass and drums fighting to be heard through the murk. It gives their already creepy songs an added level of unease as they sound even more like lost transmissions from a dead band. The sickly boogie of "No Return" is draggy and ominous; "Blood Runner" races desperately like Judas Priest in a wind tunnel; "Bedouin" has an expansive, epic feel; and "Shockwave City" might have been a radio hit if it had been released in 1972. It definitely would have sounded perfect played between Uriah Heep's "Easy Livin'" and Blue Öyster Cult's "Cities on Flame with Rock & Roll." The album's first song, "I See Through You," is another that could have been big if the band had access to a time machine -- or if Uncle Acid weren't so left-field-sounding in 2018 thanks to Starrs' knack for injecting melody into his twisted metal. This skill helps the band stand out from the downtuned hordes, especially when so many of Starrs' contemporaries don't seem to even know what the word melody means. Wasteland is another example of Uncle Acid's genius, and more evidence that they are the best metal band (apart from Black Sabbath) of the early '70s.

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