Review Summary: Death Is The Only Mortal finds The Acacia Strain just barely attempting to progress their sound, rather than regressing it.
saw The Acacia Strain quite literally breaking down their sound. And by “quite literally breaking down their sound,” I mean they almost completely made an album comprised of breakdowns. None of which sounded very different from the other. It brought forth a very monotonous sound for the band, who had previously been pretty grating with their monotony already. At least albums like 3750
, The Dead Walk
showed signs of melody and it seemed like the band actually knew how to write enjoyable songs. They showcased a knack for melody and musical decency with Continent’s
closer ‘The Behemoth’. The song showed the band didn’t need to rely on trying to sound “heavy” to sound good. It was a sign of natural progression for the band.
And then Wormwood
showed up, bringing with it no real redeeming qualities. The album had some memorable vocal hooks and had one song, ‘The Hills Have Eyes,’ that saw the band attempting to blend melody with brutality. The rest was a waste of time, after it was roughly forty-seven minutes of the exact same breakdown just played in half-time or quarter-time. Hell, the album’s closer ‘Tactical Nuke’ was nothing but a five minute long breakdown, a horrible regression in every sense of the word. So, with their new album, where would The Acacia Strain go? It was up in the air. It could have been Wormwood II: Breakdown Boogaloo
, or it could have found the band returning back to form and focusing on legitimate song-writing.
Sadly, Death Is The Only Mortal
sees The Acacia Strain roughly honing the same sound found on Wormwood
, but with an attempt to add more substance. The album begins off almost exactly the same as their previous effort, with a phone call recording run through some vocoder-esque distortion in an attempt to make the album seem daunting or scary. Let’s take note that the band seem to pride themselves for thinking that they make “heavy” music, and people seem to fall for this false representation of what “heavy” really is. The band isn’t heavy, be it emotionally or musically. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just a false ideal that a chug a day keeps the softness away. The Acacia Strain creates a form of music that doesn’t really weigh down on you. This doesn’t make you want to headbang or mosh, and it’s mainly because it doesn’t have enough substance to do so. Back to the album at hand: what we do see the band try to do as to deviate from their previous work is add atmospheric and even ambient elements to the music. By god, maybe this band has found the key to being heavy after all.
But unfortunately not, the ambient element isn’t enough to alienate The Acacia Strain’s fanbase, and is a weak attempt at progression altogether. It seems like a tacky effort the band threw in at the end. What’s gone from this new record is Vincent Bennet’s vocal hooks from Wormwood
. Rather than creating anything memorable this time, he just sort of drags his voice along with the chugs. He seems to have developed a range since their previous album, being able to screech some highs as well as his signature lows, but it’s not enough to turn heads. Bennet’s lyrics seem to be more focused this time around, while still being ultimately cheesy and uninteresting, he doesn’t come up with anything quite as terrible as “You spread disease when you spread your legs, time to suck today’s dick. I hope you choke on it.”
While the album is just as generic and breakdown laden as Wormwood
, there are occasionally some moments of the band bringing back lady melody into their repertoire, ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow’ opening with a neat lick, the song ‘Brain Death’ has a quiet enjoyable riff about halfway through the song and, lo and behold, a guitar solo. And it actually sounds good. Ha, now the band’s actually getting somewhe- oh, never mind, another breakdown. The next time the band find themselves in new territory is on ‘Time and Death and God,’ when the band actually bridge into what could be called a drone or even ambient section that goes for over two minutes. I know what you’re thinking, “a two minute ambient section? That certainly couldn’t hold the attention of the band’s fans!,” and you’re right, it probably couldn’t, but the band make sure to repay their loyal customers with a breakdown and a, uh, “creepy” spoken section that I guess is another attempt at being heavy or brutal.
All in all, this album is regular fare and doesn’t really try anything new, even though it will try and have you believe differently. The band gets really cheap and cringe-worthy when they bridge to a breakdown with a distorted clipping of the guitars and vocals a few times during the LP. Death Is The Only Mortal
closes on a high note (or as high a note you can take with this) with the six minute ‘House of Abandon,’ which once again features a guitar solo, some nice riffing, melodic picking and even piano (blasphemy! That’s not heavy!) before closing with about a minute or two of edgy-ambiance. Which, in essence, leaves the band in a higher place than they were with Wormwood
. If you were unimpressed with their previous work, chances are you’ll be unimpressed with this as well. This album merely stands as some fresh chugs for angsty teens, and that’s about all we can ever expect from this band, and it’s foolish to ask for more.