OPULENT CULT STONER FROM SOUTH WALES
ACRIMONY. You can imagine the word being written in some barbed, indecipherable death/black metal logo, an intimidating front for some nihilistic attack. But they’re nowt like that. With Tumuli Shroomaroom, Acrimony turned out a great lost heavy stoner album of the 90s, and even if it’s not lost then it’s surely not much found either. Forgotten? Maybe. And where did they go after this mushroom-baiting opus from 1997? The answer’s probably out there in a galaxy far, far away – Google – but let’s ignore the pull for info and feel some heavy groove instead.
Given that Acrimony hail from Wales, you’d be right not to expect sunburn and skateboards, but it’s not topped with cloud piss and pessimism either. Tumuli Shroomaroom sits with and distinct from sonic titans like Electric Wizard and Cathedral by bringing an earthy homegrown bent – something of the land, the Isles – to their stone-ur.
How so? Maybe it’s the Celt-ish licks and progressions that fleck the record. Maybe it’s the nature-world essence of words like stone, path, firedance and motherslug (eh?) that pepper the track titles. Maybe they just had too many trips to the Brecon Beacons as kids, I dunno.
But I do know this: there are five humongous reasons to nail Tumuli Shroomaroom to your Stoner Recommendeds board, and they are the first five tracks on the album. Let’s do this.
#1: HYMNS TO THE STONE opens the gates with a slow-moving pull into Acrimony’s mega-riff temple and whatever variations emerge through the album, they all come from this colossal bastard root. It’s a slow ‘n low cruiser loaded with anticipation and inner swagger, one of those fuck-yeah grinners with semi-lead over the rhythm – very Corrosion of Conformity but lusher, thicker, fatter. Buried vocals push the guitar up front, making it feel like an instrumental. This is what you call an opener. It’s 9 minutes. THIS IS ACRIMONY.
#2: MILLION YEAR SUMMER pushes that first dose of the homeland – the mountains, the valleys, the rugged – with a Celtic flourish nicked from Thin Lizzy’s Emerald notebook, so of course it’s bloody anthemic and a-rousing as only Celt metal can be.
#3: TURN THE PAGE. Whassis, a short acoustic interlude already? Yep. With a Tea Party-like Zep-ness it makes you wonder whether, given the name, it’s a tribute to Jimmy and his Bron Y non-electrics, but even if not, it’s got that four-seasons vibe and is as dry, bucolic, wet or barren as you want.
#4 VY. A doom-sinister wah kick-off says you’ve woken up in Electric Wizard’s airless fug of a basement bog, but where the Wizard might stick with that doomed tempo and repeat repeat repeat, Acrimony break out and wind it up for a bit, a contrast that makes the return-to-crawl all the more potent. And the solos? Squashed against the wall, sir.
#5 FIND THE PATH. If ever there was meant to be a single from this album, Find the Path with its all-conquering Pepper-era Corrosion riff is mos’ definitely it. Lyrics morph from “We pay the price for thinking” to “Give me some valium” by the track’s end and Acrimony’s path-finding riff heroics are rocking as fuck.
So, there are your five prime cuts but we’re only a third of the way through. What’s left?
Glad you asked. The only thing stopping Tumuli Shroomaroom being 100% proof are a couple of average mid-way moments, like THE BUD SONG’s underwhelming Cathedral yeahs and MOTHERSLUG (THE MOTHER OF ALL SLUGS)’s overlong quest for Epicus Metallicus status. Live, this 11-minute slugathon could well have been an infinite pulveriser, but here it sucks the energy a bit, especially after The Bud Song’s semi dip.
So thank feck for the cod ancient-ness of HEAVY FEATHER – “I was born one million years ago” – whose swinging intro and tingling riffs hurl us right back to Acrimony’s best, and album closer FIREDANCE which flaps around in flare-wearing Cathedral-isms (good ones) before cranking a heavier urgency for the rest of its 13 minutes. “Would you sell my soul? WOULD YOU SELL MY SOUL?” Er … yes. Sorry. But yes, absolutely. This euphoric spacer finale is too good not to.
Acrimony’s second album is a fully-realised 65-minute mass of surging riffs and flowing easy-rider grooves. Why they stopped at this record, I don’t know, but maybe they couldn’t have taken it much further anyway. If you look at Sleep’s Holy Mountain, it’s less consistent than Tumuli Shroomaroom and more blatantly influenced (by Sabbath), yet you pick traces of greatness – or project greatness onto it – because of the bloody-minded genre-shifting yawp that came next: Jerusalem/Dopesmoker. But if Sleep had bailed early, would Holy Mountain be revered as genius-in-waiting? Not so much. It’d be low profile and cult – like Shroomaroom is now. Go dig.