Review Summary: Although this album does not exactly bring anything new to the table, it does build upon weak elements and serve as a solid release.
The Acacia Strain is one of those bands that you either love or hate. With the down tempo, down tuned monster heavy guitar tone and almost nonstop breakdowns it’s easy to see why a lot of people do not particularly care for them. I used to go out of my way to make it clear that I did not find TAS to be a good band however after a thorough listen to Wormwood I changed my tune and I now typically find listening to them to be enjoyable. I am not completely sold on them and I don’t know that I ever will be, but Death is the Only Mortal brings a decent amount of new and it does what TAS has already done and did a little better.
That being said this album doesn’t reorganize the metal universe by any means. It’s really the same old ‘heavy music’ song and dance; however, the album is very well put together and functions by itself rather well.
This track by track section of this review was all typed during my first listen through the album and is simply my feelings towards the piece as I am listening to it.
“I killed everyone,” Doomblade kicks off the album with some of the heaviest guitar tones I have ever heard in my entire life. This is the typical TAS hardcore beat down breakdown track. The song is filled with chugging guitar parts and a rather mediocre and uninteresting vocal delivery. One of the highlights of the track is actually that you can hear Jack Strong delivering bass lines that can actually be picked out. This is also the first time I’ve heard Vincent use his higher register vocals since The Dead Walk, however, the vocal delivery remains rather uninteresting. This is the weakest track on the album.
Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow:
This song starts off with a similar feel to the Wormwood album, but jumps into the chaos that is so reminiscent of Continent. This song is much more interesting than “Doomblade” however the off time guitar chugs that reoccur throughout the track get a little repetive and tiring on the ears. Not that it isn’t interesting; they just do a tad bit too much of it. It has a typical two and a half minute breakdown but I will forgive that because it is extremely crushing and well executed. The outro is rather annoying and hardly even serves as a transition.
Go To Sleep:
Starts off sounding almost exactly like “JFC.” This song is rather weak in the overall spectrum of things. It’s overshadowed by the previous track. The vocals and guitar parts are repetitive and bring nothing new to the table. The breakdown is probably the most interesting part of the song. However it is short lived and not anything out of the ordinary for TAS. “There is no light, there is only the dark. I welcome death with open arms.” This is a solid sample of lyrics you will find on this album. Honestly nothing to profound nor cleverly brutal.
This track starts off with some interesting rhythms and guitar work that is just forceful and jumpy enough to serve as an interesting introduction. The transition into the first verse, so as to say, is powerful and the guitar does some of the most interesting work to this point in the album. It flows well and the transitions all come across as seamless. Lyrically and musically this song is one of the better on the album. There is even a nice melodic part that functions as some kind of a chorus. It is really somewhat of a breakthrough song for TAS in my opinion. There are not enough of these innovative moments on this album. The build up right before the breakdown is by far the most memorable and powerful part of the album so far and this breakdown allows the instruments to breath for the most part. Honestly it would sound better without Vincent’s vocals in this part.
The Mouth of the River:
This is another interesting introduction and an overall powerful and engaging track. There are some cool things going on with the chugs, almost a djent guitar tone but so heavy and dark it doesn’t come across as jumpy. The transitions on this track, again are very well executed and well placed. The tempo of this track makes it more interesting as well, but overall the musicianship on this track is much better than some of the other tracks. The lyrics sculpt a violent story that cognitively flows together, which is a nice change due to the typically cryptic lyrics of TAS.
The Dust and the Helix:
This track keeps the album motivating: Heavy, interesting, and hardcore as its core. It’s up tempo but still heavy. The lyrics flow well and the vocals are all well delivered. This track also displays some excellent drum work from Kevin Boutot. The strongest part of this track is that it 1. Does not have a breakdown 2. Is relatively short so it does not get tiring.
Victims of the Cave:
A few doom chords that introduce the track and allow for a feel of what this track will deliver. The guitar work is different and almost symphonic in some sort. It’s heavy but vastly full. The ambient parts that separate the transitions really add to the sense of destruction this track provides. The up tempo part around 1:30 is probably the best part of the song and as it slowly progresses and continues to just slam into your ears. It only continues to come across as more and more badass. At this point I’m thinking this album just gets better and better. The outro part of the song has an innovative and interesting guitar part and actually shows DL has some creativity aside from making every chug track he writes sound unique.
Time and Death and God:
Another extremely heavy track that delivers everything The Acacia Strain promises to us as a band: angry, heavy and crushing as well as clocking in as the second longest track on the album. The only thing I dislike is that I feel like they are trying to give you a break from the heaviness by adding a repetitive dark ambient part that goes on for far too long and seems like is abruptly was jumped into. However, when the song picks back up it is absolutely glorious. Even heavier than before and even more massively crushing, this track is not nessacarily better than any of these past few tracks, however it is a powerful piece and does not in any way detract from the album. It probably has the heaviest breakdown on the album so far.
The Chambered Nautilus:
This song is really something. It builds off the momentum that Time and Death and God picked up at the end and continues to carry it on building and using the best parts of the album so far to its advantage by acting as the “Frankenstein monster” track of the album. It really builds up for the finale so as to say. The guitar work honestly reminds me of Volumes as times
House of Abandon:
This track just sits on everything else on the album. The guitar work, the transitions, the building intensity and the unclear “real” breakdown of the song, everything about this track works extremely well together. If I were to listen to this song by itself without listening to the rest of the album I probably would not feel the same way about it. It is all in all an excellent closer to probably one of the better “heavy” albums I have heard in quite some time. The melodic parts that hit towards the middle of the song are very well devised and engaging. They make the song come across as more of an epic than it really is which quite an accomplishment for a breakdown band. I don’t really want to mention the piano parts that are thrown in there, but they are completely unnecessary and detract from the song.
Although the first few tracks were extremely boring the album really picks up and does a few interesting things. When I sat down I was not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by how cognitive this release actually was.
The Mouth of the River
House of Abandon