Certain pillars uphold the underground. Their influence pervades throughout future generations, shaping the sound, style, and spirit of artists for years to come. That brings us to San Francisco’s Acid King. This unholy triumvirate of visionary, vocalist, and guitarist Lori S., drummer Joey Osbourne, and bassist Mark Lamb existed before terms like “stoner rock” and “doom metal” even entered the musical lexicon and caused throngs of Brooklynites and Portlandians to grow beards, grab Gibsons, and buy bongs. Traces of the group course through everybody from The Sword to Kylesa. You’ll hear it…
Acid King bubbled up from San Francisco in 1993 through a fog of revved up riffs, thunderous drums, and a hypnotic vocal howl. They unleashed three EPs and three full-length albums, starting with Zoroaster in 1995, the 1999 full-length Busse Woods, and culminating on 2005’s Acid King III. Their seismic chemistry transfixed audiences everywhere from high-profile festivals such as Hellfest and Roadburn to now iconic shows alongside peers such as Sleep and Mystick Krewe of Clearlight. Moreover, the trio graced the pages of books such as The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal and the A to Z of Doom, Gothic & Stoner Metal.
As personal lives became busier, they focused on a handful of packed local shows and special appearances overseas during the next decade. Song ideas volleyed back in forth, but 2013 saw them hunker down and flesh out the vision for what would become their next offering. Acid King returns to its throne with 2015’s full-length Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere.
On their fourth outing, the three-piece maintains the corrosive concoction at the heart of their identity, while simultaneously progressing. “I really wanted to add more depth and layers to our signature sound,” says Lori. “Everything still feels like riding a motorcycle on Quaaludes, but things have expanded. It was important that we didn’t write the same record over and over again. This is a little moodier. It happened organically that way.”
In order to achieve that goal, the musicians riffed away in their Bay Area practice space. That good old fashioning jamming yielded eight artfully architected tracks bookended by an “Intro” and an “Outro”, fusing together a cohesive journey. “Coming Down from Outerspace” buzzes between a wall of thick distortion and a hauntingly cinematic refrain.
“It’s less than six minutes, which is short for us,” laughs Lori. “I’ve always been into space-related music like the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s a feeling of loneliness out there. This basically captures what it’s like to be up there lost alone. It’s a metaphor for finding your way back in life.”
Accompanied by the first music video in the group’s history, “Red River” flows into an immersive epic of a track punctuated by robust guitars and tumultuous rhythms. “It’s definitely the product of a riff throwdown,” Lori goes on. “So much music comes together in that manner. The lyrics become a vessel for feeling a certain way. You can interpret them any way you want.”
Acid King once again does things on their own terms. They’re independently releasing the album with vinyl by Svart. Their personal ethos that continues to drive the music. “We never played this music for popularity,” the frontwoman exclaims. “There are no rules. We do everything how we want to. Acid King has always been driven by that.”
Ultimately though, the effect remains the same as it did back in the nineties. Acid King unlock another world altogether for listeners. “A lot of times, fans will tell us our music got them through something like a shitty day or a long drive,” Lori concludes. “I love that people crank our music to escape from things. It puts them into a different zone. I hope everybody feels like they can leave reality for a little while when they hear us.”