Acrid - Eighty-Sixed (1997)
Acrid’s first demos came in band-stickered cigarette packs. They split studio time at Signal 2 Noise Records with Voivod, who booked up every available slot to record Phobos. Jimi LaMort, frontman of Malhavoc, was providing electronics for Voivod and lent his services to Acrid’s Eighty-Sixed, too, drizzling an extra layer of noise onto their record, whose title is “navy jargon for all out and total destruction” in the words of guitarist Jeff Almond. He says it “complemented [their] sound.” The cover of the original pressing for Eighty-Sixed is a crude black-and-white photograph of a naked man. The re-release sports a jawless skull with numbered quadrants. Acrid billed themselves early on as “poison free powerviolence,” but dropped the straight-edge angle in 1997 when Rodman and Almond gave it up a year into their career. They disbanded not long after.
Acrid were a helluva band. Eighty-Sixed is a helluva record. Originally released as a nine-track album through Dirty Kidz Records, a label founded by members of Acrid, Eighty-Sixed was later repackaged with their Sea of Shit EP by No Idea Records. Curiously, the Sea of Shit tracks are placed after Eighty-Sixed, a move that alters the experience of listening to this absolute gem of metalcore, but doesn’t necessarily ruin it: listening to Eighty-Sixed in its original configuration will obviously give you the very best of Acrid in a concise runtime, which is a monster bristling with blastbeats and spooky tremolo that speaks in an ugly, pukey screech. The whole enterprise finds a midway between DIY punk fury and second-wave black metal morbidity, occupying that space virtually on its own - if there is another band that does what Acrid do, I haven’t heard them and would desperately like to. Every so often, a chunk of Candlemass doom will bob out of the toxic mess with an eerie, clean-strummed passage like the one that opens the “Synaptic Overload” or comprises the entirely of “Swimming in the Sea of Bile,” an experiment in full-blown Gothic atmosphere that puts into perspective the most nightmarish qualities of Eighty-Sixed.
It’s a disturbing note to end on, but tacking on the Sea of Shit tracks immediately transfigures “Swimming in the Sea of Bile” into a murky transition rather than a dive into pitch-black darkness. The effect is like crawling out of a swamp into a desert: the black metal overtones evaporate and the riffwork becomes more jagged and straightforward. The breadth of Acrid’s abilities and the reverse improvement between these two records comes through sharply: Sea of Shit is much more a product of its era, a hardcore record with a feral glint in its eye and a metallic sheen that, while enjoyable in its own right, just doesn’t measure up to the frostbitten atrocity that is Eighty-Sixed. It’s up to the listener whether to listen to it back-to-back with Sea of Shit, but all things considered, Eighty-Sixed is probably the “scariest” first-wave metalcore album you’re likely to find, even accounting for Each Individual Voice is Dead in the Silence. Acrid were onto something, and while there’s nothing tongue-in-cheek about the corrosive madness documented on Eighty-Sixed or anything remotely “fun” or conventionally listenable about it, there’s a sadomasochistic frontier here aching to be explored by those who enjoy the pain.