I was suddenly reminded last night that it’s nearly Halloween (Forgive me, September was rough). Hopefully I can do some serious posting this month, because this is the time when we collectively choose to focus on the weirdness lurking just beyond the veil of humdrum existence. For a start, I’d like to share a bit of genius I’ve only discovered in the last six months or so. This is Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and they might be the scariest metal band around.
Hit play on the following, and read on, to be convinced.
Uncle Acid would be called a hard rock band if this were 1975, but nowadays they fit most comfortably with doom or stoner bands like Sleep, Electric Wizard (they’re on the same label), or Windhand. They may share the most DNA with Kadaver, another group that’s explicitly trying to recreate the sound of ’70s arena rock down to the finest details.
But there’s a huge difference between Uncle Acid and the many, many stoner/doom bands I love. Superficially, despite their intentionally amateurish visual vibe, they’re immensely hooky and melodic. “I’ll Cut You Down” could be rearranged into a Carlie Rae Jepsen-style pop gem (and please, please, somebody do that).
But the real distinction is that while artists like Sunn O)))) or Baroness are bands who try to evoke dark feelings, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats are basically LARPing as serial killers who happen to have joined a band.
Their choice to sing in that incredibly disturbing falsetto is obviously at the core of what they’re doing as a band. Wedded with their often sickly-sweet melodies, that voice evokes the kind of threat that you feel from a person who is somehow too nice, too retiring, too weak. The kind of person you know must be hiding some insane agenda behind their mild smile. To be clear, I’m talking here about male sexual predators – the terrifying “nice guys” who hover and coddle women before exploding in rage when their milquetoast advances are rebuffed.
Uncle Acid take that dynamic and make the implicit explicit, giving voice to the nice guy’s demonic inner monologue – their best songs essentially narrate sex crimes from the killer’s perspective. And of course, that’s going to be intensely disturbing to many women, but since this is Halloween, it’s as good a time as any to lay down the thesis of horror magnificently laid out by Stephen King in Danse Macabre: Horror (and metal has as much in common with horror fiction as it does with the rest of music) is where we go to grapple with our deepest, darkest fears. And for both men and women (I’m going to be heteronormative here), rape is in this day and age the ultimate terror – more terrifying than communism or satanism or terrorism or, I will risk saying, any politician.
I can barely conceptualize the fear of being a victim of rape, though I’ve seen enough of that anxiety to know that it is profound. But for straight men – the aggressors both in the popular imagination and in the vast majority of actual rapes – the terror evoked by rape is this truly insidious question: Is this unspeakable terror something I might be capable of? Of course, as a defense, the thinking here is reprehensible – the implication that men have ‘uncontrollable urges’ is a tool of gendered oppression, full stop. But it is nonetheless a thought that exists for even the very best of men – one of the alligators that King says we must feed from time to time.
But I’m not sure feeding is the right term to use for the alligator of sex crimes – what we really have to do is wrestle with the alligators, Florida style, smell their breath and test our mettle. Uncle Acid takes us deeper into the muck and mire than many dare to, but it’s still just music, a dark playground, a dangerous imagining that lets us spar with our greatest fear, so that we can satiate the specters, live our lives, and, hopefully, breath a bit more easily.