Back in 1993, the world of stoner rock was barely an infant, finally producing an audible cry with bands like Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu, Sleep, and most notably, Kyuss. While the dissonant rumblings of the Palm Desert are now seen as ground zero for the whole stoner/desert/doom scene, Acid King, out of San Francisco, began its ascent into this musical world quietly and slowly the very same year.
Acid King – Beyond Vision (Blues Funeral Recordings)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Sunil Singh
I stumbled upon their second release, Busse Woods, when, like so many others, I was completely consumed by the short-lived label Man’s Ruin. That album was solid as hell, but in no way could I have predicted that over 20 years later, they would not only still be around but produce an album that is their most emotionally consuming and sonically dense in their 30-year history.
Now having said all that, the folks that have been with this band for a good little while will be able to savour Beyond Vision more than someone to who this album might be the introduction to the band. The best way to explain that would be like playing the Final Fantasy RPG series right from the beginning on Nintendo’s NES and now playing FFXIV on PS5.
Beyond Vision is an immersive experience of sound that rivals the visual journey of the best quest video games out there. The consistency of the work and the timeless nature of it put Acid King in the realm of being the Pink Floyd of doom.
“Beyond Vision is based on the journey of life,” Lori S says. “Jason [Landrian] and I were having these heavy pandemic conversations at the practice space for two years, talking about all the stuff you go through being in bands, touring, your relationships in life, all that stuff. You think this trip is supposed to go one way, but it goes in very different ways that you can never imagine.”
Already a classic, and the ‘paint’ of this beautiful masterpiece is still wet. Let’s plunge deep into each of the songs now.
One Light Second Away
I started this song four times. Just seconds in on my first attempt, my musical gut was alerting me to the idea that this album was going to consume. I was both transfixed by what I was hearing and emotionally unavailable to truly process the genius songwriting that was coming at me in no uncertain volume. I don’t invest in stocks. I invest in car speakers.
Once I was ‘ready’ to listen, the dense terrain/moods of Acid King began to flow, like molten hot lava, with fire and purpose. Acid King have an almost unique ability to make some of their songs sound like birth and death. This song feels like the epilogue of a Final Fantasy game, with the quieter and reflective parts representing a hero’s journey coming to an end and the more aggressive notes being some final boss that is about to be vanquished. This song could have easily been at the end. It’s not. That only means the journey of this album is bigger and bolder. What a bloody start!
For some reason, my mind went straight to Robin Trower’s Bridge Of Sighs as this song began to roll out. Except this song is heavier, a little faster, and as strange as it sounds, happier and uplighting. This is the first time we hear Lori S’s signature vocals which always sound like they are on the verge of fading in and out of some dream state.
“The journey has begun,” Lori says, “but you don’t know where it’s going to lead.”
The combination of trippy female vocals with the relentless pounding of instruments yields a sound that is soothing in its subterranean delivery of pulverizing blues. This song could have gone on for twenty minutes, and it would have seemed too short.
Thankfully this song is not literal. It sprawls well past its mysterious time title. The slower pacing and well-placed vocals, feeling even more ethereal, make me want to believe that this song was crafted in some Buddhist temple a thousand years ago. Yes. When you produce the kind of music Acid King has done for four decades, spiritual and cosmic reflections not relegated to any space/time dimensions are par for the course. Someone else might paint a completely different picture of this song. For me, it feels born in a religious house, not of this time and place.
Sitting in the middle of the album, Electric Magnet does exactly what I was hoping it did. The song is slow and unassuming, only alerting the listener that something massive is around the corner. And then, at the halfway mark of the song(and more or less the halfway mark of the album), ‘it’ rises. The authoritative doom throwdown of Acid King.
As soon as that riff comes in, you want to shout, “All hail Acid King!” And then, beautifully–almost with this “sweet sadness”, ‘it’ fades away. We are only left with a lonely, bluesy ode to its disappearance.
Destination Psych/Beyond Vision
While these are two different songs, the video presents them as one seamless entity. Destination Psych truly feels like an end is coming, but with an approaching light of great significance. Damn straight.
The transition into Beyond Vision with another dose of memorable hypnosis and transcendence via Acid King doom wizardry is my favourite moment on the album. It definitely feels like a steady march into the unknown, but at the same time, especially when Lori S. sings “beyond vision”, a nostalgic pang of unattended psychedelia of the ’70s swirls through the song. The album could have ended here, and it would have scored 10/10.
All great things must end. And this, folks, is one of the greatest albums of our generation, using the medium of doom to paint images that are boundless and only limited by our imaginations. The only thing left is to weep. I am being both figurative and literal.
The final song begins about as minimalist and light as a band like Acid King can be. Just like RPGs have various endings, this album could have ended on that light note and it would have made complete sense. But, there is an ‘alternative’ ending. It begins after the lightness.
We are minutes away from the end of the album, and Acid King flips the table and unleashes a massive attack that sounds like it should be a bloody opening track! What in all that is glorious and righteous with heavy music is going on? I’ll tell you. Updating my review in real-time: this is one of the greatest albums of all time.
Now let me go do my happy cry in celebration and astonishment.
Beyond Vision was recorded to two-inch tape courtesy of Dead & Company at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California. Lori worked hand in hand with Black Cobra guitarist/vocalist Landrian on Beyond Vision, with the pair sharing writing and production credits. The band is rounded out by Bryce Shelton (bass/synthesizer) and Jason Willer (drums). For more details, visit https://www.bluesfuneral.com.
June 3 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
August 4 Innsbruck, AT Poolbar Festival
August 10 Moledo, PT Sonic Blast
August 11 Kortrijk, BE Alcatraz Festival
August 12 Marienthal, DE Hoflärm Open Air
August 25 Wörrstadt, DE NOAF
September 8 – 10 Sao Paolo, Brazil Setembro Negro Festival
September 23 Austin, TX Ripplefest