Rise To Near Fame And Split (1987-1991)
I stole the above from a heading in Acid Reign’s Wikipedia entry and it, poignantly, gives you most of what you need to know about the career of quasi-comedic British thrashers Acid Reign. Back in the day I remember reading about them and Lawnmower Deth’s beer-drenched shows in Kerrang!* and it all seemed like a bit of a giggle. This prompted me to leap into action last January and buy a fully signed copy of their 1990 album Obnoxious on eBay for £1. Had the autographs actually driven the price down, I wondered?
I was expecting a jokey confection a la their touring mates Lawnmower Deth, as befits their ‘UKAC’ logo** what I got was a damn straight British thrash metal album with some hard playing, a smattering of invention and oodles of very solid thrashin’^. No jokes here matey.
My fave track is the 9-minute second side opener, ‘Phantasm’. Acid Reign really get their, umm, chug on here and that’s a damn good thing as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, surely you have to love a track that is so determinedly epic that it is split into two named parts – Running Scared and The Tall Man. That it’s a sci-fi scenario about humanity being hunted and enslaved by aliens just makes it loads better. If you’re comparing Acid Reign to any of their big Yankee contemporaries then Anthrax circa Among The Living is the most useful kicking off point and ‘Phantasm’ could swing hard with any of their tracks way back then. True story.
Letting Obnoxious spin on gives us the reason why this lot never got to the bigger leagues. ‘My Open Mind’ is just a bit average really and vocalist H really strains for a tune here, but then just as your patience is being tested those guitars come scything in and all is forgiven, for ever, for sure. The tracks ‘Joke Chain’ and the furious ‘You Are Your Enemy’ are fine without hitting any real highs, Acid Reign don’t stamp enough of their own personality or originality on them to stand out, which is a regret. The only track I don’t like is ‘Thoughtful Sleep’ with its slow burn intro and Metallica stylings, H’s voice ain’t up to this track, I’m afraid to report – he’s much better barking out the odds on the chunky, punky, crunchy opener ‘Creative Restraint’.
Acid Reign (the Acids? the Reigns?) pull of a fun trick on the LP closer ‘Codes Of Conformity’. The track is a 9-minute fast thrasher about fitting in and recognizing the differenced in people and can be read as a dig at any restrictive scene – they used to get occasional bad press in the metal mags for being too jokey, then something rather great happens. Around the six-minute mark the thrash beat suddenly changes into a fast jazz funk beat and the band play it damn cool and straight for a couple of minutes, demonstrating some unexpectedly sharp funk chops – take a bow Adam and Kev on guitars. It then, for reasons best known to the band themselves, devolves into an Alvin & The Chipmunks style-thing for a minute, I’m less of a fan of the very end bit, but you know what? it’s when Acid Reign sound most like themselves on Obnoxious and the most relaxed. It works.
The production by the band and Stilly Harris isn’t bad at all, but could be sharper and bassier if the band had a chunk more dough backing them, which is often the problem I find with indie metal releases. For all the very good playing and writing here Acid Reign on Obnoxious, in sporting terms, are a very good second division team having a very good game but not quite making it through to the next round of the cup.
Near fame and split.
PS: Various past members saw active service later with Brit monsters Cathedral and, their pals, Lawnmower Deth. A version of the band are back together and still ripping it up.
PPS: This is from ’89 and you have to love this as a way to start a thrash gig, from memory the Hippodrome was always renowned for having really heavy, umm, obnoxious security:
*I was chattin’ to a chum at work today who saw them in ’89 touring their Moshkinstein LP who told me they were great live and the band ended up completely soaked to the bone in beer, sweat and good will.
**stands for U.K Apple Core, of course!
^The 1987 Metal Accord Acts forbid, under Article 7 (a-c, 2) anyone from spelling the word normally spelled as ‘thrashing’ with a g. Sorry, it’s the law.