The Acacia Strain

MUSIC REVIEW: The Acacia Strain, “Gravebloom”

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Good old TAS, the OG’s of nihilistic downtuned modern metal music. Ever since their inception around the turn of the millenium (has it been almost 20 years already?!?), they have been kicking our collective asses. In their first 10 years, they released three legitimate classics: 2006’s “The Dead Walk” (is there anything heavier than the beginning of “4×4”?”); 2008’s “Continent”, which was/is 10/10 perfection from beginning to end; and 2010’s “Wormwood”, which would begin a shift from the mid-tempo malevolence into the slower, doomier sound that they are known for now.

Now it’s 2017, and there are probably hundreds of bands out there operating from The Acacia Strain’s influential musical template. So, what do they do? Why, record and release “Gravebloom”, of course, which certainly ranks among their best albums (released June 30th on Rise Records).

It opens with “Worthless”, a self-loathing song set to swirling guitars which has a surprising dynamic shift around the 2:45 mark. Things don’t get any happier: the indictment of society on “Plague Doctor”, exploring how to not be a model citizen on “Model Citizen”, the funereal dirge of “Cold Gloom”, and the Deftones-esque dissonant wall of sound on “Abyssal Depths”.

“Bitter Pill”, “Dark Harvest”, and “Calloused Mouth” pick up the tempo and are more reminiscent of the old-school TAS sound that we all know and love. “Dark Harvest” in particular is musically and lyrically reminiscent of the awesome “Holy Walls Of The Vatican” off of their previous album Coma Witch.

The lyrics of Vincent Bennett alternate between suicidal desperation and hostility towards the corruption of society. When he screams “We exist inside a wasteland / Rolling fields of agony / Bodies hanging lifeless / In a forest of dying trees / The last great disciple of the human race / Slipping through the cracks of time and space” on Bitter Pill, he paints a dystopian picture that is bleak, yet defiantly in acceptance of its fate.

When you get a TAS album, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Aside from the occasional shift in song dynamics, Gravebloom pretty much sticks to the sound that The Acacia Strain is known for. And let’s be happy they did, because they have released one of the top metal albums of 2017.

 

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MUSIC REVIEW: The Acacia Strain, “Coma Witch”

It is no secret (well, amongst people I know, anyway) that The Acacia Strain is one of my favorite bands. If only for their 2008 album Continent, which is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece and archetype of modern metal. Ever since then, TAS has gotten progressively slower in tempo and heavier in sound, through their albums Wormwood and Death Is The Only Mortal, and now we have their latest album Coma Witch (due for release October 14th on Rise Records).

The one thing that TAS is good at is creating imagery. From Vincent Bennett’s over-the-top dystopian and antisocial lyrics, to the seriously downtuned and dissonant guitar work, to the jackhammer rhythm section, they are quite possibly the audio equivalent to your worst nightmare. It took some time to refine their sound, but they have seemingly perfected it on Coma Witch. “Holy Walls Of The Vatican” is a prime example: unadulterated atheistic anger set to grinding drums and minor keyed power chords, which opens up an ending that has quite literally one of the heaviest breakdowns I have ever heard in my life. The rest of the album is just as doomy, from opener “Human Disaster”, to the closer “The Observer”, an almost half-hour long song full of apocalyptic sound bites and samples.

One of the reasons I am such a big fan of their album Continent is because of the production (Zeuss), which should be a benchmark for all new metal releases: the right mix, vocals up front but not overpowering, compressed just right, prominent low end and drums, and perfect clarity. Will Putney has done an admirable job as producer on Coma Witch, and this sounds as good as all the recent TAS releases have sounded.

If you like your metal as heavy and antisocial as possible, then this album is recommended for you. Many bands have jocked TAS ever since they came out with Continent, but no one can come as hard as they do. Coma Witch is the best album they have come out with since Wormwood, and is one of the top metal albums of the year.