Reviewed: [August 2020]
Released [2020 Rise Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Massachusetts brutes The Acacia Strain seem to be full of surprises these days. First, there was the unannounced Christmas time release of the epic EP It Comes In Waves, a single 30-minute song split into seven individually named movements. Incredibly, it turned out to be arguably the band’s most compelling – and certainly most creative – effort yet, mixing their traditional deathcore bludgeon with cinematic doom, thrash and industrial elements and wrapping it around a sci-fi concept that posits the gods created humans to toy with for their own amusement. Happy holidays indeed.
Then, just two months later, The Acacia Strain released a single from their next album. And every month or so after that came another one, each bearing a one-letter title until it spelled out DECAY. And with that, the band now has released the full album, with the full title Slow Decay, boasting all of the tracks from the singles and two additional tunes for an even dozen.
Slow Decay returns the band to more traditional sonic territory – brooding, belligerent deathcore delivered in menacingly efficient bursts – but certainly does not dispense with all of the flourishes that made It Comes In Waves such a standout. The band’s eighth full-length, Slow Decay, has a doomier feel overall as it carries over the imposing production values of Waves and the creepy crawl likes of “Seeing God” or “Solace And Serenity.”
And there is a greater sense of variety as well, from the sludgy, Alice In Chains-like melodies of the finale “EARTH WILL BECOME DEATH;” the swaggering, bouncy hooks of “Crippling Poison;” the industrial clangor meets ambient sweep meets doomy death march of “I Breathed in the smoke deeply it tasted like death and I Smiled.” On a more somber note are Courtney LaPlante’s eerie guest clean vocals to close out the otherwise thunderous “One Thousand Painful Stings.”
And if its heaving riffs, quaking breakdowns, writhing rhythms and frontman Vince Bennett’s fearsome bellow you’re really here for, The Acacia Strain deliver in spades and with their usual authority. Slow Decay is dense and heavy as fuck, an absolutely crushing work from top to bottom.
As usual, Bennett is in his element with his grim and curious, yet eerily captivating lyrics. “Let it be written, paradise was ruined/By people who wore their cell phones outside of their pants” he offers on “Inverted Persons” or “With the way that we’ve been living/Concentrating on bringing about change/Masturbating/We wiped away the human race” from “One Thousand Painful Stings.” His forthright and unflinching delivery makes it all fairly disturbing – and real – no matter how absurd it may sound.
It might have seemed that The Acacia Strain captured lightning in the bottle with the departure that was It Comes In Waves. But instead, Waves turns out to have been more the tip of the iceberg. The band has carried the vibrant spirit forward and given their old sound a bit of a boot in the ass while at the same time delivering the goods as they always have.