Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno: Starless and Bible Black Sabbath

Daniel Spicer

This damaging riff-quake from Japan's premier freak-rock collective may very well be the sound Woody Allen had in mind when he coined the phrase "maximum heaviosity".

Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno

Starless and Bible Black Sabbath

Label: Alien8
US Release Date: 2006-02-21
UK Release Date: 2006-04-03
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This current incarnation of Kawabata Makoto's Acid Mothers Temple soul-collective, known in these post-Cotton Casino days as the Cosmic Inferno is, as the name suggests, an altogether more incendiary creation than the comparatively whimsical Melting Paraiso UFO. Gone are the days when the occasional, acoustic 'tea-ceremony-in-the-temple' type track might waft onto an album. These days it's all about the riffs, and the heavier the better.

Some things, however, don't change, and here we find Kawabata continuing his tradition of clumsily constructed album titles paying tribute to rock icons: this time around there's obviously a King Crimson reference but we're unmistakably in Black Sabbath territory: the album cover features a carefully crafted facsimile of Sabbath's first album, with Kawabata standing in for the original mystical female cover-star.

Within the first few moments of the monstrous 34-minute title track, it's plain as night that this whole project is primarily a celebration of Sabbath's tectonic sludge-rock template. The bottom line is, if you love Tony Iommi's leaden riffage, you're almost certain to dig this. Huge-sounding temple drums and gongs set the scene with portentous authority and then it's heads-down for the central riff: a wonderfully Neolithic approximation of that essential down-tempo Sabbath sound. It's heavy alright, with Tabata Mitsuru's bass holding steady and the double drum team of Shimura Koji and Okano Futoshi ploughing the same monomaniacal furrow, but it's also propelled into typically psychedelic realms by Higashi Hiroshi's cranium-piercing synth ululations and twitterings, recalling Hawkwind at their most cosmic.

Center-stage, however, is Kawabata the axe-hero, wrenching unstoppably dramatic, wah-wah-drenched pyrotechnics from his lead guitar. What's most fascinating is the way his soloing rarely seems to fall back on blues-rock clichés: it's obviously part of a lineage that includes Hendrix, Zappa, Cippolina, and countless other Western axe-slingers, yet at the same time it's filtered through an Asian sensibility that manages to steer it away from the psych-guitarist's usual comfort-zones into an unfamiliar region that makes for gripping, unpredictable listening.

Eight minutes into this opus, the tension's ratcheted up a notch with the introduction of the obligatory fast metal riff, and the band's off on a heavy prog-gallop, with a flanged bass groove, stomping drums, and overdriven, non-stop guitar soloing, which blasts on joyously for around seven minutes before getting back to the serious business of the central riff. Little changes then until the final two minutes of the tune, when the tonnage gives way to a coda of acoustic, raga-folk finger-picking, trailing off into oblivion.

It's immensely satisfying, unpretentiously straightforward, and undeniably powerful fare, but there's also no escaping the fact that it's actually quite difficult to maintain full concentration throughout. As with many of Acid Mothers Temple's lengthier creations -- such as the hour long version of "Pink Lady Lemonade (You're So Sweet)", that constitutes the first disc of the three-disc set Do Whatever You Want, Don't Do Whatever You Don't Want -- it's all too easy to find your attention wandering. But, the point is, does it really matter? There's something about the scorched-earth, unflinching, event-less approach to these tunes that suggests Kawabata's quite happy for them to be drifted in and out of. In an odd way, it's almost as though this doomy-riff is striving to occupy the same territory as LaMonte Young's drones, or the most enveloping of ambient soundtracks. In fact, it's quite possible that this could be the heaviest background music ever created.

Still, all this is merely academic when the second track kicks in. "Woman from a Hell" is a dumb, high-energy mix of classic Motörhead and "Do It!"-era Pink Fairies -- the classic Ladbroke Grove proto-metal sound. At just six minutes, it's something of a filler, but when it's preceded by this much killer, who's arguing?


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