The Acacia Strain released five 7-inches in the last few months, each one titled with a single letter. Sequentially, they spell out DECAY, which is apt, given the state of the world. Slow Decay, the LP proper, including all 10 songs from the 7-inches, plus two new ones, is out now via Rise Records.
The songs on a whole are classic Acacia Strain: bleak, mind numbingly barren and eternally punishing, but also slick, with new tones and precision cutting more to the point. Which is: the Earth has reached its boiling point. COVID-19 has certainly heightened this, but it’s been in plain sight for a long time now, and lead singer Vincent Bennett has always been on point there. He’s been writing nihilistic, apocalyptic folk tales since the band’s inception.
“People have kind of come to me and been like ‘did you just write this a week ago,’” he says. “And I’m like ‘no, I wrote these lyrics like a year ago.’ And they’re like, ‘I can’t believe this’ [laughs].”
You can’t blame the skeptics. With lyrics that are deeply intertwined with the times we live in (“the fire ignites the sky, I never got the chance, to say goodbye”), it’s hard not to think of Slow Decay as prophetic, or even hard journalism.
“You know it’s just coincidental that it basically sounds like the record is about what’s going on right now,” Bennett opines. “The record is actually about, we, as a planet, kind of get sucked into this wormhole and we’re all actually living in an alternate reality, in this version of hell, and the Earth as we know it no longer exists. Our reality is slowly melting around us, and that’s the explanation to all the craziness that’s going on; and that was even before all the craziness we’re currently living.”
Still, Bennett’s fictional tale is damn terrifying, for it showcases a matrix one can’t unplug from. Sort of like the one we’re in right now.
Acacia Strain records typically have a virtual reality-like feel to them; they exist alone in some foreign, hard-angled multiverse. The new songs continue that ascent. Linear and cold, with an almost metallic naturalism, songs like “The Lucid Dream” and “Solace and Serenity” (both on the E 7”) offer little time for taking a breath, both continuous in their path to specific point. The nightmare that passes is the reality that no one wants to accept. The songs act as unbiased observers, simply there to record the reverberations and move on. They mirror our un-reality quite impeccably.
“It feels like what we’re living right now is fake,” Bennett says. ‘It feels like an alternate timeline. It just so happens that more and more unbelievable crazy shit just keeps happening, and nothing is balancing out anymore. We’re just full on a bullet train to breaking reality.”
Below is the full interview with Bennett.
How are you doing during this pandemic, and how’s the band doing, you guys ok?
We’re trying. It’s really all up in the air right now, as you probably know. We had stuff planned for the summer that we were really looking forward to, but it’s not looking good. And we’re just trying to stay positive, in terms of the rest of the year is concerned. But luckily we have this rollout that we thought about before this even happened. It just happened to coincide with everything that’s going on. At least we have music coming out, at least we’re doing something, and people are pretty receptive to it, so I’m just glad we have something to offer.
That’s amazing that you guys thought of it before Coronavirus hit.
Yeah, we recorded it in September I believe, and it was one of those things where we just thought it would be a cool thing to do, and you know, we started putting the 7 inches out and then this happened and we were like ‘ok, I guess we’ll keep going,” you know. What else are we going to do? Our releases were planned around tours. We were on tour when the first couple came out, and then we had to come home. And then we had a European tour planned after that and the releases were staggered weeks apart so they would come out when we were on the road, and they just didn’t. Initially they were coming out a few weeks at a time and then they turned to four weeks at a time because we had a bit of break, we were going to Europe, and then obviously, all that went away. So, people thought they were going to be coming out at regular intervals and they just didn’t.
That’s crazy. Well, they’re amazing and just as far as fans and people in general, the way they’re lining up right now is really hopeful for people, just to expect another release to come out and anticipate and wait for it, so that’s pretty amazing.
Yeah, I feel like it gives some people something to look forward to. Again, me something to look forward to, like as far as the morning before, the Thursday before a record comes out, it’s like ‘o my god, we have a record coming out, we have new songs coming out, hell yeah, I can’t wait.’ So I can stay up until midnight so I can post about it on social media. Because I’m just as excited as everyone else.
That’s awesome. Yeah. So, I guess something that’s related, the album is dark and omnipresent, and I feel like it’s speaking to the future of mankind sort of, and it’s a strange thing, because it’s happening in front of our own eyes. You know, just the themes you write about, and the darkness of a lot of your music.
That’s pretty much metal in general, it’s pretty dark. There are not a lot of metal bands that sing about good luck and prosperity. But yeah, some of the lyrics people have kind of come to me and been like ‘did you just write this a week ago,’ and I’m like ‘no, I wrote these lyrics like a year ago.’ And people are like ‘I can’t believe this,’ it’s just so coincidental that is basically sounds like the record it about what’s going on right now but it’s not, the record is actually about well, we, as a planet, kind of get sucked into this wormhole and we’re all actually living in an alternate reality, in this version of hell, and the Earth as we know it no longer exists. Our reality is slowly melting around us, and that’s the explanation to all the craziness that’s going on, and that was even before all the craziness we’re currently living. It feels like what we’re living right now is fake; it feels like an alternate timeline. So that’s basically the gist of the album and it just so happens that more and more unbelievable crazy shit just keeps happening, and nothing is balancing out anymore, it’s just, we’re just full on a bullet train to breaking reality.
Like “Lucid Dream,” the lyrics in that are like, wow, this is exactly what’s going on. I mean it’s prophetic. So, I guess when you’re writing, what’s that process like in terms of themes and ideas, and where do you reach for, is it reality, is it fiction, is it dreams that you have? Because they’re really dense and there’s a lot of stuff going on with the lyrics.
I feel like a lot of it is fiction, especially lately. Like Continent was in large a story, and the record we just came out with in December, It Comes in Waves, that was a science fiction story that I had written, and this one is another one, but it’s fiction based in reality, so I guess science fiction, like it could happen. Obviously it’s happening right now, but a lot of it I write when my mind is kind of empty, you know, like when you have nothing to do but think, like when you’re trying to fall asleep is when your brain just won’t turn off. Or when you’re doing a long drive, or when you’re in the shower, and these are the like the most inconvenient times for when you have thoughts you need to write down, because you’re driving, and you’re trying to fall asleep and every time you get a lyric in your head you have to choose: do I write this down or do I try and fall asleep, and when you’re in the shower, you’re soaking wet, you can’t even grab your phone, you’ll ruin it, you’ll ruin a piece of paper, so it’s like you have to try and store all this stuff and if you don’t write it down, it’s gone. Yeah, most of my ideas come at the most inconvenient times. I think that’s when your brain kind of wanders and that’s when the real creativity comes out, when your brain has nothing to do but think, and you kind of just spiral. I write stuff line by line, or two lines at a time and then sort of piece it together later, but I usually have an idea of what I want to write about and then the lyrics just kind of come. It’s really stupid to say out loud, but that’s just the way I work.
That’s cool. Yeah, I was going to ask you about how you guys work together, how you work as a writer, and that’s interesting that you write pieces and then put it together, almost like a collage. I mean is there a lot of collaboration when they’re doing the instrumentation and you’re fitting the lyrics to it?
Basically what happens is they’ll do, and bless technology for this, they’ll make demos, like really programmed drums and loose demos with guitars so I have something, and we don’t have to sit in a room where they have to play the part over and over and over again, until I can find the line, you know. So my band will record the music to like a demo to a computer and they’ll send it to me, and then I’ll take every lyric I’ve written in the past two years and I’ll literally lay it out over an entire room. Like for the last record, my kitchen table was covered with paper, I have another table next to it that was also covered in paper, and I was just playing piece by piece over and over just walking in my house just trying to make this stuff fit, trying to make it cohesive, and make it about the same thing, and like I said, thank goodness for technology, because if I didn’t have it I would drive my band crazy. Like, you need to play the riff five hundred more times so I can find the right line.
Wow, that’s so cool. That’s an amazing process. So, Acacia Strain is modern, they’re contemporary in that sense. Not just with the music you play, but maybe with the process and the methods you guys use?
Yeah, I mean, we have it at our disposal so we figure we should use it to create, because we’re spread out all over the country as well. Devin, my guitar player, lives in California. Griffin, my bass player, lives in Iowa. Tom, my other guitar player lives in North Carolina. So, we’re all over the country. It’s really rare that we’re ever at the same place unless we’re on tour. Usually before a tour we’ll meet up a week beforehand and we’ll practice, but other than that we don’t really see each other. So thank the Zoom and Pro Tools and stuff like that, we’re able to collaborate without being anywhere near each other.
No kidding. What’s the process like when you do get together and play the songs after you wrote then from a distance; is there a level you have to reach to find it again?
It’s pretty easy because everyone practices when they’re not together anyway. I play along with the music just to remember how the songs go. So once we’re in the same place it just feels good. We’re like Voltron, we’re finally able to put all of it together at once and hear how to sounds. We have so many songs that we want to play live and we usually only play for an hour, so we really, really have to cherry pick the fan favorites and the songs we actually won’t to play. So we just get so excited and want to play for four hours but we know we can’t.
That’s so cool. Yeah, with the new songs there’s so much variance and diversity going on, it’s amazing. Is that something you guys talk about, or is it just kind of song by song how it evolves?
Everybody in the band kind of has a different writing style. Like, Devin likes melodic doom, and Tom loves Cannibal Corpse, and Griffin loves hardcore and the Foo Fighters, so everyone’s picking from a mixed bag, and when two guitar players write together when the have two different writing styles, it just starts to fit and starts to make everything sound kind of different, but then, they’re writing separately, so say Devin write this song and Tom wrote this song, but then Devin and Tom wrote Song C, so it’s like everybody’s getting pieces of everyone when it comes to instrumentation, and even me, I’m throwing some riffs in there, just based on stuff I like to listen to. Plus, for this record, the releases are scattered and we wanted to make sure we showcased a little bit of everything. So, separately it sounds natural and when you put it together it still sounds cohesive. So we had to think about it that way as well. We still wanted to make sure it sounds like the Acacia Strain because we don’t want to put out a record that doesn’t sound like us.
Yeah, totally, no one sounds like you guys, and that’s an amazing thing.
So when the album eventually comes out will it be like: D will be the first few songs, will it go in order of the way the songs were let out, in terms of the 7”?
We king of switched it up a little bit. Like you know, there’s a song here and there that might be in a different spot, and because like I said we wanted to make it cohesive, we wanted to put everything in order in the way we thought it worked when you listen to it all at once, but at the same time, when we did these releases, we wanted to put the songs together that complimented one another together, plus, when the full-length comes out there will be two more songs, so we had to figure out what two songs we were going to let off the 7” and wait for the full-length, and those were picked out of the middle of the record, so we had to shift everything around and hopefully when people finally get it, when people see the big revel, they’ll be like ‘o shit, not only so we have all these 7”, we have a full-length, I just hope they understand why we did it the way we did it, and why the songs are in the order they are, and why they’re different.
Awesome. So I guess the last one I have is just, in terms of being a musician and artist and what’s going on in the world right now, what’s hopeful, do you see pockets of hope, like you were talking about earlier, the music that’s coming out you’re hopeful for. Do you guys see some positives?
The only positive that I can see right now, I believe there’s a lot of social media, and everybody’s just up each other asses and down each other’s throats, just arguing and the conspiracy nuts are out there, the only thing that gives me hope is knowing that once this over, and it’s going to end we just don’t know when, but once it’s all over people are going to be so hungry for live music that there’s not going to be any shows, by any bands, that isn’t going to be sold out. People want this so bad, they’re starving for it right now, and it’s only been a couple of months, but people message me and they’re like ‘I miss seeing live music,’ it’s not even a specific band, it’s just anything to get them out of the house. I mean this music gives people life, it gives them somewhere to go; somewhere they can feel welcome and feel like they belong. They don’t have that right now, they’re stuck in their houses and all they can do is watch YouTube. I think this is really making people appreciate what they don’t have and what they used to have, so when live music comes back, people are going to be so hungry for it they’re going to go to every single show they can, and that what’s keeping me going, that’s what the positive is for me. I mean even me, I just want to go to a show, I mean of course I want to play, but I just want to go and see a live band play, and I can’t and I’m just so excited for the future. Who knows how long this is going to take but once we’re back, we’re back, and it’s going to be awesome.
Yeah, you’re so right. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and the new songs are amazing, and best luck with everything, thanks again.
I appreciate it. Take care of yourself.
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