Released: 2006, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Trimming the fat of such extra baggage as a third guitarist and enlisting a new rhythm section since the release of 2004’s 3750, Springfield, Massachusetts’ The Acacia Strain have streamlined themselves into a powerhouse quintet that sets out to pulverize everything and everyone on their new CD, THE DEAD WALK. Enlisting Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz to handle production, this CD simply crushes with mega-ton drums, chunky, discordant riffs and Vincent Bennett’s abrasive growl. The latest release from Himsa immediately comes to mind, with equally devastating metalcore melded with top-notch production, as does Meshuggah, The Red Chord and FAR BEYOND DRIVEN-era Pantera. The Acacia Strain can certainly boast of having one of the most skull-crushingly heavy releases of 2006 but they never forsake rhythm, either. There are certainly no clean vocals or melodic choruses here but there are plenty of mosh-worthy stomps and speedy riffs to accent the brutality. Overall, THE DEAD WALK is one of the most satisfying and inspiring albums to show that metalcore might still have some energy left in its tiring legs.
After the ubiquitous instrumental opener, what becomes immediately apparent (and refreshing) is the fact that The Acacia Strain forego the usual metalcore cliches. Rather than forcing insipid clean vocals into commercially-driven choruses backed by Swedish-inspired riffs, Vincent Bennett’s relentless bellow thunders over the proceedings, while Daniel Daponde and Daniel Laskiewic unleash a barrage of crashing riffs that will incite many a circle pit. “Burn Face” and “4X4” could be termed “Meshuggah-lite,” with mid-paced, stop-start, chugging riffs and Bennett’s acerbic bark reminiscent of Jens Kidman. “Whoa! Shut It Down” navigates near the metallic hardcore of bands like Pro-Pain/Biohazard and “See You Next Tuesday” even enlists Mike DC from Demolition AD to bring the band’s hardcore influences to the table. “The Demolishor” features some atmospheric guitar parts and the pinch harmonics and melodious riffs utilized on “As If Set Afire” and “Predator: Never Prey” (All That Remains Philip Labonte, as well as members of Premonitions of War, Suicide Silence and Paths of Torment, assist in the gang vocals) make them two of the album’s standout tracks.
The Acacia Strain also knows how to pen a breakdown and believe me, that skill is shown here. At times, THE DEAD WALK sounds like a string of Pantera-influenced breakdowns (why not borrow from the best?) which, as unoriginal and unfocused as it may sound, actually works here. Deftly woven riffs chug away at a grinding rhythm section through nearly every song, creating a low-end, half-hour sonic monster.
What befalls THE DEAD WALK are the absolutely heinous lyrics. There are no specific songwriting credits listed however the person who came up with lines like “Eat shit and live,” “The world will never stop unless we make it stop” and “I want to destroy something beautiful” are as banal as clichéd as I have ever read. Musically, The Acacia Strain has taken one major leap forward but the lyrics take things two big steps back. Better luck next time.
Yes, THE DEAD WALK is another metalcore record and yes, there isn’t much here that hasn’t been done before but The Acacia Strain manage to roll up everything and spit out a genuinely angry and seismically-blessed release (a nod must go to Dutkiewicz as well for his superb work on this album) that will surely blow up a few people’s skirts. As much as metalcore has almost become a profane term in many circles of metal, it is good to see that there are a few bands out there still making an attempt to create interesting music. Fans of The Acacia Strain will be tickled to hear the band making their mark and followers of metalcore will find plenty to get excited over, too, but on the flipside…this is another metalcore record and some will argue another one of those is needed like a hole in the head.
KILLER KUTS: “Burn Face,” “4X4,” “See You Next Tuesday,” “Predator: Never Prey”