October 9, 2018 Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – Wasteland (Album Review)
Brace yourself, English rockers Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats are set to return on Friday, October 12, 2018 with Wasteland, their fifth overall studio album and fourth with Rise Above Records. Three years may be a short time, but it marks the longest gap between outputs for the band, whose previous efforts 2015’s The Night Creeper, 2013’s Mind Control, and 2011’s Blood Lust came in rapid succession after their long-out-of-print 2010 debut, Vol. 1.
A return that fans are foaming at the mouth to hear, frontman, founder, and mastermind Kevin Starrs has shuffled his lineup this time around. While veteran Vaughn Stokes returns from The Night Creeper, switching to rhythm guitar from bass guitar, the rhythm section is entirely new, comprised of Bassist Justin Smith, rising from the ashes of psychedelic rockers Purson, and Drummer Jon Rice. Starrs has also abandoned the loose identity that he plays the role of aforementioned Uncle Acid, operating with a backing band of Deadbeats. Instead, the entire lineup is equally guilty in the titular role.
Consisting of eight songs, troublesome opener “I See Through You” sets an early tone of nascent creepiness, as if the band is sounding tracks to describe a hazy nighttime adventure spread across desolate dark city streets. Though the landscape of Wasteland may be empty, the minds of its citizens are even more barren. This is as Starrs explains, the people have had their minds wiped clean, and thus move about the world in an almost dreamlike, zombified state.
Even the implied populace of “Shockwave City” was essentially erased by the accompanying music video, whose inhabitants are few and far between, rushing to escape annihilation as overwrought guitar sweeps across the screen to blend empty skyscrapers to the surrounding landscape. Then, “Blood Runner” starts with a siren wail, and then falls into a fresh adaptation of the NWOBHM vibe. This is while the distorted vocals project the dejected setting.
The psychedelic stylings of Uncle Acid manage to give the listener hope as the organic sound feels as if it were loosely, but expertly, assembled from basic pieces of wreckage nearby. Furthermore, the sound also removes any chance at salvation. Can a grassroots effort like this have any chance overpowering those who have taken control? That question raised, “No Return” drapes itself in gnarled vocals and drags itself across the listener’s ears for over six minutes. This is similar in style to former label mates Electric Wizard, before the track dips into a somber ending.
Moving on, the title-track, “Wasteland,” dances closely to the edge of nearly acoustic ballad that recalls the slower moves of Black Sabbath. Later, the nomadic traipses of “Bedouin” and “Exodus” carry the mood. The former takes a long, windy path through keyboards and guitar, while the latter, the album’s closer, offers the clearest vision/cleanest recording of the journey, while the outgoing guitars and choral voices leave us with… hope?
Kevin Starrs and his merry band of deadbeats has once again outdone themselves. Having sated their fanbase with the re-release of the long-lost (if ever-found) Vol 1, the band keeps their strong footing with Wasteland, a dark, rambly trip through the best and worst capabilities of human civilization. The stripped-down production also leaves the band nowhere to hide; their creativity and musicianship is evident in each track. Checking song titles alone, the concept of lonely wandering begins to shine through. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats continue to chronicle the empty, disappointing world around them. That is why CrypticRock give Wasteland 4.5 out of 5 stars.