As hotly tipped imports go, English quartet Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats isn't exactly a shoo-in for mainstream success. Formed in (Ye Olde) Cambridge by singer-guitarist K.R. Starrs in 2009, the group initially took its cues from Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Cultivating ominous anonymity, Uncle Acid cloaked its nascent metal and sleazy riff rock in cultish trappings nicked from lurid horror and thrill-kill flicks, mingled with an unlikely penchant for earworm hooks.
Now, with latter-day doom, sludge, and stoner bands crowding the landscape from stairway to heaven to highway to hell, Uncle Acid's formula has helped the band stand out. Riding a surge of momentum powered by its new album, "The Night Creeper," the quartet attracted a sizable throng to Royale on Monday night.
A concept album about a nefarious serial killer, "The Night Creeper" reaches back past Uncle Acid's formative influences to unearth earlier primal chills: "Blue Album" Beatles at John Lennon's most heavy-mental; Phil Spector's Wall of Sound at its claustrophobic height. Sing-song melodies filtered through intentionally icy vocals and vintage gear foster a dread akin to contemplating Halloween candy offered by strangers.
Almost inevitably, the new material took on warmth and clout when played live by Starrs and his Deadbeats (guitarist Yotam Rubinger, bassist Dean Millar, drummer Itamar Rubinger), nestled amid earlier Uncle Acid fare including "Mind Crawler," "I'll Cut You Down," and "Withered Hand of Evil." Aggressively backlit to appear as hairy wraiths, Starrs & Co. seem to be adjusting to adulation well, to judge by the leader's easy-going banter.
Playing in support, doom-metal quintet Ruby the Hatchet plied a more conventional sound with juggernaut cohesion, cemented with organist Sean Hur's viscous purr; singer Jillian Taylor evoked prime Ozzy Osbourne and Stevie Nicks in roughly equal measure. The evening's strangest sounds, and some of its strongest, came from opener Ecstatic Vision. The trio-plus-guest lived up to its name with Hawkwind-inspired acid-rock riffs and obsessive Krautrock beats, infused with blustering sax, fluttering flute, and trance-inducing African pulsations.
UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS
With Ruby the Hatchet and Ecstatic Vision. At Royale, Monday
Steve Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.