Plenty of musicians transition from early days in punk or metal bands to making music that's a little softer, more accessible and more nuanced. Most, however, don't do it as powerfully as singer-songwriter Dax Riggs.
After alternately crooning and screaming in Southern metal quintet Acid Bath, Riggs went melodic and bluesy in Deadboy & the Elephantmen, an eclectic outfit that put his vocal vibrato at the fore. It was dark, somber and psychedelic, too, with enough heavy riffs to keep heads nodding.
As a purely solo artist, however, Riggs has ventured further into folk songwriter territory. With his 2007 debut on Fat Possum Records, We Sing of Only Blood or Love, no song exceeded three minutes; tracks were more streamlined and full of classic- and Southern-rock hooks. "Night Is the Notion" was a standout, with his quivering voice over a slow-building rock 'n' roll foundation, strengthened by piano chords and a climaxing chorus. At the same time, tracks like "Truth in the Dark" were closer to sludge than soft rock -- unsurprising for someone whose influences span from Van Morrison to Iron Maiden.
Since then, Riggs has only released one more full-length affair, the more down-tempo Say Goodnight to the World in 2010. In addition to the breathy, psych-rock title track, it includes a slow, intoxicating rendition of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," more in line with the suicide-inspired tune written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton. But whereas "Like Moonlight" conjured shades of Sea Change-era Beck and the aforementioned Morrison, a handful of mid-tempo rock jams kept it a diverse, up-and-down affair that reflected his roots.
On July 30, he's bringing that potent voice to the Frequency. His live set might be acoustic and drum-free or with a fully electrified band, but each delivers the same cathartic experience, releasing a range of pent-up emotions. Whether or not you've followed Riggs over his 20-year career, you'll find a man with uncommon pipes and special songwriting acumen.