Album Reviews

Album Review: The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay

acaciastrain_artworkRelease Date: 24th July 2020

Record Label: Rise Records

For Fans Of: Crowbar, Hatebreed and early Paradise Lost

Before legendary metal/hardcore revisionists The Acacia Strain surprise dropped their ninth album It Comes In Waves, nobody could have possibly expected the sheer impact it would have on the scene. Showcasing the debut performance of new guitarist Tom Smith, the thirty-minute doom opus paired crushing darkness with celestial horror, birthing a potent, emotional ode to humanity’s insignificance. So when the Massachusetts quintet started putting out 7-inches on a monthly basis, each containing two songs, the underground stood up and paid attention. Combining these five EPs along with two new songs, 2020’s Slow Decay brings us back to The Acacia Strain’s familiar pit-igniting style while fluidly incorporating the suffocating atmospheres of their last effort. With a terrifying concept and outstanding packaging to boot, it’s time to take a deep dive into the soundtrack to normality’s collapse.  

Vincent Bennett, the band’s sole original member, has always celebrated negativity in his music, but when it began seriously affecting his personal life he decided to make a change. His empowering and very public journey towards a more positive way of living has been one of the true joys of recent hardcore history – but that doesn’t mean he’s gone soft on us. After spooky industrial ticking, ‘Feed A Pigeon, Breed A Rat’ begins with the unforgettable cry “IT FEELS LIKE HELL” before pummelling you with The Acacia Strain’s signature slow-mo genre bending assault. Blending death metal tremolo with Crowbar-style sludge and bone-crunching mosh riffs, you’re sucked into a new world of scathing existential dread, and it only gets better from here. 

‘Solace and Serenity’ pairs warped, granite riffs with an icy aura, creating the feeling of being towered over by an immeasurable celestial force while the unstoppable blunt force of ‘Chhinnamasta’ supplies one of the biggest mosh moments of the year. This seamless blend of frantic metalcore and pensive doom is something The Acacia Strain both invented and mastered, but on Slow Decay they’ve made it into an artform. Where this record really comes into its own is on the slower, more atmospheric tracks. Cuts like ‘Earth Will Become Death’ and ‘I Breathed In The Smoke…’ ramp up the terror and double down on the weight, inducing a keen sense of spine tingling dread. ‘One Thousand Painful Stings’ does this better than any other track here, bringing in the wistful melodic vocals of Courtney LaPlan, rising out of the murk and twisting the main hook into a moment of pure transcendence. 

As usual, every member is on fire. Devin Shidaker and Tom Smith bring the monolithic guitar heft and Kevin Boutot continues to cement himself as one of the greatest heavy drummers out there – but the real star of the show here is Bennett. Howling out some of the best lyrics of his career, he provides the dense, gravitational core for the album’s vast decaying landscape. The overwhelming abundance of perfect yell-along lines is what makes Slow Decay such an engaging, all-encompassing experience. Literally every song contains at least one of these moments, some of the best including: “WE ARE THE WORST VERSIONS OF OURSELVES!”, “I CAN’T…FUCKING…BREATHE!” and “GIVE YOURSELF A FUCKING HEART ATTACK!”.   

When It Comes In Waves dropped and the band announced that there would be another album coming in the next year, it felt like this “other album” would be more of a spinoff, not the main attraction. However, with the release of Slow Decay, it seems like It Comes In Waves was more of an introduction to the ideas explored on this album. Taking everything The Acacia Strain do best and blending it into an absolute beast (pardon the pun) of an album, these twelve tracks are designed specifically for crushing the mind and the moshpit with their best collection of songs yet. After everything they’ve been through over the years, this record feels like a real victory, solidifying their standing as one of the best, and most forward-thinking bands that metalcore has to offer.


Recommended Track: ‘One Thousand Painful Stings’

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