12. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Wasteland (Rise Above)
As enjoyable as it has been watching Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats evolve from a mysterious solo project to a full-fledged band, that progression hasn’t been without its share of bumps along the way. After the revelatory Blood Lust blew ears and minds with its lo-fi blend of doom, psychedelia, and garage rock in 2011 – the product of the clear and unique vision of musician Kevin Starrs – Uncle Acid started dipping its toes in the live arena, and that more robust sound defined the very strong Mind Control in 2013, a record I was very fond of that year. 2015’s The Night Creeper, however, felt like somewhat of a step backwards, the songwriting turgid and bloated, with not many hooks leaping out at the listener like the band’s best work. Not that the album wasn’t bad – it actually has plenty of good moments – but the bleakness and lumbering pace lacked dynamics over the course of the entire record. That all changed on Wasteland, Uncle Acid’s best work since Blood Lust. This time it’s all about dynamics: just listen to the energetic opening one-two punch of “I See Through You” and “Shockwave City” for proof. The menacing “No Return” is probably the best Sabbath-inspired song Starrs has written to date, while “Blood Runner” is a very refreshing blast of early-Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal. After the Stooges-style groove of “Stranger Tonight”, Wasteland settles in for a concluding trifecta of moody compositions: the title track slowly morphs from acoustic guitar and mellotron to a soaring jazz-rock number, “Bedouin” is built around a bizarre yet undeniably catchy horns riff of all things, and “Exodus” sounds commanding in its doom and gloom. Accentuated by some truly fabulous art design inspired by ‘70s science fiction, this is the kind of authoritative statement a lot of us were hoping for from Starrs and Uncle Acid. I’ll be cranking this well into 2019.