After Audie Pitre died, Dax Riggs decided to form a slower band. That was Daisyhead & The Mooncrickets. However it only laid out the basics of what was to come. Soon after Agents Of Oblivion was formed, the band including two former members of Acid Bath, Riggs and Mike Sanchez. The title of the band derives from a line in “The Beautiful Downgrade”, the bonus poem from Acid Bath‘s last album Paegan Terrorism Tactics. “The agents of oblivion descend upon the sane, caked with mud and mother’s blood.”
The band released one self-titled album in 2000 and then broke up soon after. Riggs went on to form Deadboy and the Elephantmen with Chuck Pitre. Alex Bergeron, formerly of local Houma band SlowTheKnife, joined later and continued on with Rigg’s post-Deadboy solo work.
“It’s OK to change,” reckons Agents of Oblivion guitarist Mike Sanchez. “Don’t be afraid to change, it won’t kill you.”
It didn’t kill Sanchez, nor partner-in-crime Dax Riggs, when they put together Agents last year from the remnants of notorious Bayou noise terrorists Acid Bath. And Agents of Oblivion is a 180-degree sonic and psychological turn from Acid Bath, a band that – with its turbulent, unsettling death rock, John Wayne Gacy and Jack (Dr. Death) Kevorkian-painted album covers, chemical experimentati on and brawl-inspiring live show -instilled as much terror as awe.
In their short time together, the Houma, La.-based Agents have crafted a surreal, multifaceted, often surprisingly subtle sound and delivered it in an absorbing, self-titled debut album on Rotten Records. While big guitar riffs still abound with Agents, courtesy of Sanchez and Riggs, they are tempered by the relaxed pacing of drummer Jeff McCarty and played with an easy-going, Southern rock spirit on “Endsmouth,” “Slaveriot” or “Ash of the Mind” that are big on melody and soul. And lots of acoustic guitaring and a dash of the traditional Cajun melange of country and blues here and there help provide a mellow balance.
Though still undeniably powerful, this is music that captivates instead of bludgeons, an album you can immerse yourself in and wrap your head around without worrying about it being beaten in.
“A lot of people work really hard and they don’t want to come home to loud music that you can’t even masturbate to,” Sanchez says. “We want to play music that someone can come home to and drink a beer or smoke a big ole blunt and relax and enjoy, music you can make love to your wife to if you want to.” Thus, Agents of Oblivion offer a taste of honky-tonk blues on “The Song That Crawls,” the sparse, acoustic-guitar-and-piano backed “Wither” where Riggs’ passionate vocals bring chills, and the loopy psychedelia of T Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer.” “Big Black Backward” concludes the album with a freaky blend of country twang, crashing riffs, electronic splashes and sampled dialog of potty-mouthed kids killing a “queer rabbit” that you probably won’t want to have sex to.
Ironically, perhaps the most imposing moment on the Agents’ debut comes with a rousing, electrified take on one of Acid Bath’s rare beautiful moments, the haunting acoustic number “Dead Girl.” It’s the biggest curveball in an album full of breaking pitches.
“Water that moves is drinkable, water that doesn’t stagnates and stinks. We like to keep moving,” Sanchez maintains. “Music is supposed to take you somewhere. That’s how we all like to feel and how we all like to play. If you like to feel that way, you’ll like what we do.”
The tragic 1997 death of bassist Audie Pitre – killed with his parents in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who’s now doing some serious prison time – effectively brought an end to Acid Bath. Agents of Oblivion fell together in the aftermath, with Riggs, Sanchez and Acid Bath drum dynamo Jimmy Kyle jamming around with other area musicians.
“There’s not a god dam thing to do around here, I don’t even have cable,” Sanchez shrugs. “So you might as well pick something up and play with it, other than your dick.” Among those musicians was well-traveled keyboardist Chuck Pitre, (no relation to Audie) who honed his chops as a boy under the guidance of his Pentacostal minister/piano teacher mom. A damn fine chef who runs a fish market, Pitre nevertheless signed on.
The rhythm section took a bit longer to take shape. Kyle moved on and another drummer came and just as quickly left. But in the best one guy knows another, who knows another tradition, McCarty – who’d played with Pitre at jam nights at a local bar – was invited to jam with Agents. “It was pretty electrifying,” Sanchez enthuses. McCarty knew bassist Alex Bergeron from an old band they’d played with, and Bergeron was called down to play. He clicked and with that the line-up was set and the band was up and running. Agents of Oblivion have played a few well-received gigs around Louisiana and hope to tour in the new year, after the debut is released.
While admitting that starting fresh with a new name and radically altered sound present a formidable challenge to the band, Sanchez says Agents of Oblivion are up to the task and confident about their music. “We hope it changes the world.