It’s definitely been a busy 12 months for Massachusetts metalcore outfit The Acacia Strain. While the advent of a full-blown, global pandemic has certainly put the prospect of touring plans on the backburner for the foreseeable future, it’s done very little to slow their consistently crushing musical output.

After surprise dropping their ninth, full-length album, It Comes In Waves, in the twilight of 2019, the first half of 2020 saw The Acacia Strain taking a slightly different approach to teasing LP number 10. Starting with the release of the cryptically titled D in February, which took the form of a two-track, 7-inch EP, hints around the group’s new album project slowly began to emerge.

Opener “Feed A Pidgeon, Breed A Rat” is everything we’ve come to know and expect from the Rise Records heavy-hitters: dark, ominous, and utterly bludgeoning. Followed by the brutal, metallic hardcore of “Seeing God,” guitarists Devin Shidaker  and Tom ‘The Hammer’ Smith, Jnr combine churning riffs with concussive rhythmic sections, heightening an atmosphere of disruption and deterioration.

Each successive month then saw another letter reveal and two more pieces of the larger musical puzzle coming together. March’s E featured the grimy, death-metal inspired “Solace and Serenity” and the haunting, chaotic energy of “The Lucid Dream.” Then, April’s C added the crawling funeral dirge of “I Breathed in the smoke deeply it tasted like death and I Smiled,” which was perfectly accented by the extended, minute-long breakdown of “Crossgates” and the percussive fusillades of drummer Kevin Boutot.

Situated at the mid-point of the intended album track list, the song’s lyrical concepts revolve around ideas of death, deceit, and the vast implications of a hidden, false reality: “What if we all died? What if instead of burning alive, we are living hell? We are the worst versions of ourselves.”

Things finally began to come together with the release of A in May. “Inverted Person” recalls the stop-start dynamics and pinch-harmonic mania of the band’s older efforts like Continent (2008) and Wormwood (2010).

Named after a self-decapitated Hindu goddess who represents death, temporality, and sexual self-control, the stupid-heavy “Chhinnamasta” finds The Acacia Strain at their most primal and uncompromising. Rivalling the mosh-friendly heights of fan-favourites like “JFC” and “Beast,” the track rests on lizard-brain head-bang riffs and a somewhat prophetic opening vocal refrain for these pandemic times: “I can’t fucking breathe!”

The final chapter arrived with June’s Y, adding the doom-riddled, elegiac “One Thousand Painful Stings” and the foreboding album closer “EARTH WILL BECOME DEATH”. Absent from the slow-release EP quintet are two additional tracks, “Crippling Poison” and the penultimate “Birds of Paradise, Birds of Prey”—the former acting as a two-minute blast of morbid hardcore, while the latter hits like the down-tuned soundtrack to an unexpected dirt nap.

Taken in as a cohesive whole, Slow Decay—much like the remainder of the band’s back catalogue—orbits around the booming bellows and corrosive vocals of frontman Vincent Bennett. Thankfully, however, the band decide to mix things up in the vocal department for LP number 10, adding guest vocal slots across the album from the likes of Aaron Heard (Jesus Piece), Jess Nyx (Mortality Rate), Zach Hatfield (Left Behind), and Courtney LaPlante (Spiritbox).

It’s a creative decision that adds unexpected variation to another world-class, sonic beating from one of the scene’s longest running and hardest working contributors. And even if none of this sparks your interest, at least the sprawling, naturalistic cover artwork from illustrator and designer Caelan Stokkermans is pretty to look at.

Purchase Slow Decay here.

Author

Owen Morawitz is a writer, thirty-something human male and an avid devourer of coffee, literature, philosophy, film noir and science fiction. He enjoys carving out a meaningless existence in the abyssal void, venturing beyond the bounds of the Southern Hemisphere, and listening to music that’s at times poignant, abrasive and restless—except when hungover.

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