The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay (Album Review)
The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay
Release date: 24 July 2020
Vincent Bennett // Vocals
Kevin Boutot // Drums
Devin Shidaker // Guitar
Tom Smith, Jr. // Guitar
Griffin Landa // Bass
Doom-death-metal-core-heavy-however-you-want-to-describe them band, The Acacia Strain are back when the world needs them most. They’re facing the confrontation of the hell we’re living in through around the world, and focusing on that discomfort a little bit. Onya, ‘Strain.
The band, who’re originally from Massachusetts, have tackled the maze that is 2020 with a very clever approach, for all parties involved. Over the course of the last few months The Acacia Strain have released two-track EPs, titled with single letters, slowly spelling out ‘Decay’ which diehard vinyl fans are frothing on, in the lead up to moulding them all together and throwing another two tracks in the mix, to cultivate an LP called ‘Slow Decay’. Obviously, this is an excellent embodiment and demonstration of the album theme (being ‘slow’ for those playing at home), and also a great marketing piece to focus on individual tracks – which I applaud them on; ICYMI – these days bands are seen more and more to be releasing further singles from an album ahead of its release, as it dials up those stream numbers on your favourite platform e.g. Spotify. With this method, the fans win, the bands win, and the vinyl collectors win. Good one, guys!
Alright, we’ve pulled apart Slow Decay as a package in terms of release, but let’s take a look at what really matters here – the music. It’s only been a minute since the latest release from The Acacia Strain (Boxing Day to be exact), where they dropped the doomy ‘It Comes in Waves’. Well, the creative juices are flowing and they’ve brought back the carnage with their 2020 record. Alrighty, let the Slow Decay begin…
‘D’ is for ‘Feed a Pigeon, Breed a Rat’ (1) and ‘Seeing God’ (2) featuring Aaron Heard of Jesus Piece and Nothing Fame. It also sandwiches a track with no EP to call home, and it’s titled ‘Crippling Poison’ (3). ‘D’ kicks off with huge anticipation as front-man Vincent Bennett screeches out “It feels like hell!” – before entering the rest of the band, tuned down to the lowest of lows (this is gonna be a heavy one). The opening track is filled with suspense and eerie guitars, as Bennett offers short head-banger verses about the ever-so-present contamination and disease; and then the guitars break into a little sexy prog-medley; uff The Acacia Strain are sounding fresh. If you haven’t heard (2) yet, you’ll love it. It picks up in pace, and the sombre beginning takes an aggressive turn. The guitars are turned up and Bennett is unapologetically angry in vocal delivery. There are some nice hardcore elements in this track, an immediate reminder of this band’s versatility compared to some of the many other big bands in the ‘scene’. The melodies continue as the frontman rampages through the song to a racing finish.
I, for one, was curious as to whether last year’s Dayton shooting (where the suspect was wearing an Acacia Strain shirt) may have featured lyrically on the record, either in response to the situation, or in terms of its impact on the band. Look up the lyrics for the song and see what you think, we’ll leave it up to you to interpret the meaning.
(3) takes us back to the first EP ‘D’, as Bennett delivers filthier vocals than before, and the band continue with the fast-paced hardcore sound. The vocalist drives the band’s speed and the band follows, with precision. On the back-end, Aaron Heard enters with absolute ferocity in purging vocals, which marry up well to Bennett’s clearer growls; an awesome collab.
‘E’ is all about ‘Solace and Serenity’ (4) with ‘The Lucid Dream’ (5) which also has a guest featuring – Jess Nyx of Mortality Rate. (4) is meaty; it’s got a lot packed into it. The ferocious environment slows down and the wind blows us into that immediate realm of dark doom that we know all too well with The Acacia Strain. The guitars once again scream eerily as the drums pound consistently, and Bennett spews dark lyrics that end with the album title Slow Decay. (5) continues where (4) left out, and Nyx jumps in and steps things up a notch. The doom dissipates, the guitars pick-up, and it’s now another sprint.
I’m loving all the varied voices in this album. ‘C’ contains lengthy track title ‘I breathed in the smoke deeply it tasted like death and I smiled’ (6) with Zach Hatfield of Left Behind, and ‘Crossgates’ (7). This chapter is all about doom and crescendo; you get that delicious signature sound of the The Acacia Strain, mixed with those butterfly feelings of new sounds you haven’t heard from them before. These songs are so brutally heavy, you can imagine how ground-shattering they’d be at a live show.
As we enter the back-end of Slow Decay, we reach ‘A’, containing ‘Inverted Person’ (8) and ‘Chhinnamasta’ (9). These tracks are crunchy and intertwine chaos with organised doom. I really like ‘Chhinnamasta’ as it arrives like a slap in the face. “I can’t fucking breathe” – Bennett squeals to the high-pitched guitars, which could be a thematic inference to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement (or completely coincidental – again we’ll let you decide). The melodic realm this track builds, suspends a lot of emotion and leaves you feeling the song in the deep core of your body.
Finally, ‘Y’ is ‘One Thousand Painful Stings’ (10) with another guest feature – Courtney LaPlante of iwrestledabearonce with a song called ‘EARTH WILL BECOME DEATH’ (12), holding together the second track on this LP that you may not have heard yet – ‘Birds of Paradise, Birds of Prey’ (11). If you’ve heard iwrestledabearonce before, you’ll know that LaPlante is a monster behind the mic; how exciting to see a collaboration with some of the heaviest hitters in the game. (10) continues from where (9) left off with interjecting speed and doom. The track shifts with slower and slower riffs, entering LaPlante who gives us a glimpse of a more angelic sound to what we’re used to from her. The contrast works excellently.
So, (12) arrives before we fully decay. Wind it up, wind it up, wind it up! This apocalyptic tune captures the bleak atmosphere of the world we live in today. “The clouds erupt, there are no heavens above us“. The song is groovy and maintains a doomy edge, whilst gathering some pace and taking us through to a catharsis in this decay of the last twelve tracks. It changes direction rapidly, with dirty melodic guitars, holding onto each second vigorously. The album slowly shuts down and fades away into the abyss…
The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay tracklisting
1. Feed a Pigeon, Breed a Rat
2. Crippling Poison
3. Seeing God (feat. Aaron Heard)
4. Solace and Serenity
5. The Lucid Dream (feat. Jess Nyx)
6. I breathed in the smoke deeply it tasted like death and I smiled (ft. Zach Hatfield)
8. Inverted Person
10. One Thousand Painful Stings (feat. Courtney LaPlante)
11. Birds of Paradise, Birds of Prey
12. EARTH WILL BECOME DEATH
Slow Decay is out this Friday through Rise Records. Pre-order here
Review by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
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