Patience is the key word with this release. The fifth album by these San Francisco stoner/doom mainstays — who's been been around since 1993 and is named after Ricky "The Acid King" Kasso, a teenage drug dealer who killed a friend over stolen PCP while hopped up on mescaline back in the '80s — takes a noticeably laid back and leisurely tack. The guitars languidly elongate the power chord, progression and blues box soloing typicalities associated with the genre. The drums take a Slint-like approach to rhythmic hypnosis, pocket back-beat and sounding like leather boxing gloves dead-on connecting with cauliflower ears. The bass rumbles like a freight train powering through a deep valley with wandering runs adding to the murky bell-bottomed feel.
The majority of the proper songs here are in the six-plus minute neighborhood, and certainly take their time getting there. In fact, it's about nine minutes and a song-and-a-half before the vocals of vocalist/guitarist/lone original member, Lori Joseph make an appearance, her cough syrupy drawl acting as hazy complement to a sauntering guitar riff caked in the distorted mud that is "Mind's Eye." But once the stagger-start, halting chords of the intro crash into a slab dragging riff, complete with fuzz box melodies flourishing over-top, the song soars with menace, like vultures gliding in circular formation over their high noon lunch.
Coming off the extended heels of 2015's awesomely-titled Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (with a couple of live releases stopping up the gaps), Beyond Vision is an album greatly inspired by soundtracks, pandemic uncertainty and the exploration of space. Well, as much as Joseph, guitarist and keyboardist Jason Landrian (also of Black Cobra), bassist and synth player Bryce Shelton, and drummer Jason Willer (drums) can explore space from the confines of a sweat-scented rehearsal room.
But you can see a lot if you stare long enough at the bottom of a bong, especially after diving headfirst into space movies and documentaries about the final frontier. Acid King's manifestation of their understanding of the cosmos comes with ominous synth swells that trudge along at great lengths on a Krautrock bender in instrumental album opener "One Light Second Away." And as the guitars shift to a spacious ‘70s vibe and a transcendentally triumphant main riff, it's interesting to note that one can gaze starry-eyed into the beyond indefinitely, but that expedition will still look to The Who for keyboard inspiration and the NWOBHM for guitar melody ideas.
The technological advancements that simultaneously allow for humanity to have a place in space, while still remembering the dangerousness of stepping outside the exosphere, are given a nod with the industrialized clang underpinning the first half of "90 Seconds" where Joseph howls a mantra about "Transmissions from the sky/Is someone left behind/Or is it just a sign?" That song fades (collapses?) into "Electro Magnetic" which further exploits a foreboding and minimalist clatter with processed percussion and recognizable repetition offered by the guitar. Those elements build for three-plus minutes before crashing under waves of lava lamp echo, psychedelic fuzz, Bill Ward battery and an eerie dissolve into the Einsturzende Neubauten-esque ambience of "Destination Psych."
After a whirl through Beyond Vision, it'll come as no surprise to learn that the album was originally designed as single-stretch instrumental piece and wasn't even planned to have the Acid King name slapped on it. Fleshed out, with molasses-paced builds, Joseph's heavy-lidded vocals and drug den guitar harmonies and leads, the former instrumental collection has been elasticized into a warm and fuzzy, but still unnerving and sinister, journey through the reaches of space, the patient stretching of time and the widening breadth of what constitutes Acid King at 30 years of age.