Dax Riggs used to front a Louisiana sludge-metal band in the ’90s called Acid Bath. From then to now, I don’t think he’s changed all that much. Riggs might disagree, but I still hear the sonic equivalent of clogged arteries in his music: fat, caloric guitar distortion, almost no soloing, tribal drumming, and deathly themes. That, by the way, is what made him famous in the first place. Acid Bath, for those who don’t follow sludge metal, was one of the original bands to chart this gloomy and sometimes brutally plain territory. But Riggs’s voice is far more interesting than his guitar. Somehow, he’s able to combine Nickelbackish yowling with the gentlemanly wail of Roy Orbison. On paper, this may seem impossible, but bi-octave singing is the true Riggs gift. He sounds like a tomcat marking his territory, a quality not lost on his record label, Fat Possum. They call him their Orpheus, him being an ancient Greek musician said to have charmed all, from the dead to the very stones under one’s feet.
And Henry Rollins likes him. When Rollins was traveling through India he blogged about a couple of things: the intense heat and how much he likes the music that Riggs is making. He called Riggs a “considerable force.” And then Rollins wrote something that to me came completely out of left field. He said Riggs was redefining blues music. Really, Henry? Blues? I think not. If anything, Riggs is redefining Riggs. That or he is flensing meat from the post-traumatic bones of something personal. Whatever, but it ain’t blues.
Then Rollins compared him to Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the Gun Club. I concur. And with Riggs titles such as “Say Goodnight to the World” or “I Hear Satan” or even “Let Me Be Your Cigarette,” it is easy to agree with Rollins when he says, “There are no happy songs here.”
Dax Riggs: Soda Bar, Thursday, August 2, 8 p.m. 619-225-7224. $10.