Review Summary: The Acacia Strain threaten to deliver an aural pummeling with "Continent," and they deliver in all aspects.
Massachusetts hardcore/metalcore band The Acacia strain return in 2008 with "Continent," their fourth studio album. Lineup changes come with this record including Jack Strong replacing bassist Seth Coleman, and the departure of Daniel Daponde, leaving guitar duties solely to Daniel "DL" Laskiewicz. Vocalist Vincent Bennett and drummer Kevin Boutet retain their positions. This album features 11 songs for a total running time that comes in at just over 40 minutes.
Fans of The Acacia Strain's previous efforts will be pleasantly surprised with an experience that will sound familiar, but bring something new a fresh. Newcomers are in for a beatdown from an engine made up of down-tuned, mid-tempo chug riffs, well-paced grooves, a few small solos and leads, and breakdowns. Said engine is fueled by Bennett's hate-filled lyrics and straightforward delivery. Vocalist, Vincent Bennett, referred to this album as the band's "darkest" album to date (at the time), and has commented on the despair of his mental state during it's writing. These emotions are not held back in lyrical themes that consist of misanthropy, misogyny, and some nihilism thrown in for good measure. The examples that could be used are plenty, but lines like "I don't sing f*cking love songs because there's nothing in this world for me to love,"I pushed the button, I watched the sky rain death, consider this global abortion," give the listener a glimpse of the experience ahead. The album is reminiscent of 2006's "The Dead Walk," but is altogether a more polished experience with higher production quality and more developed songwriting. Each section of each song is well-placed, and every track has at least one (usually more) moment that the listener can find memorable. The songwriting itself is what sets it apart from its predecessor; bringing more structure to the album and makes each song unique from one another. The Acacia Strain utilize some needed musical technicality injected amongst the rumbling riffs and thundering breakdowns, a welcome addition that serves to make the album sound more complete.
The good tracks: There is plenty of "good" to be found here. The album opens with "Skynet," which serves as a complete introduction to the rest of the album as it brings the heaviness at several different tempos. "Dr. Doom," is often referred to as a band favorite by Bennett, and features one of the best of the album's condensed solos. "J.F.C." (Jesus F*cking Christ, in case you were curious) provides the "anthem" type section that will have crowds shouting "I am the end of the world" before they are thrust into one the best breakdowns of the record. Some of the heaviest and aggressive sections are condensed to potent effect in the shortest song on the album: "The Combine," clocking in at 2 minutes and 2 seconds. Finally, "The Behemoth," an instrumental, closes the album with a rare instance of a more mellow atmosphere in place of the aggression that makes up the previous tracks. The listener may even find themselves describing this song as "beautiful," it's still heavy at times, but is a show of musicianship that is accomplished without being pretentious. The track allows the listener to catch their breath and have a peaceful moment to reflect on the memorable moments of "Continent" while enjoying the clean tones and somber leads. It is a great note to end on, no pun intended.
The bad: The listener may struggle to find any tracks that one could call "bad" throughout "Continent." A "bad" song may be considered one that lacks memorable moments, or perhaps features a lackluster performance; two qualities that don't seem to be present in any track on this record.
The bottom line: "Continent" is arguably one of The Acacia Strain's best efforts. They wanted to give the listener an aggressive experience with dark subject matter. What they delivered was a straightforward approach to being one of the heaviest bands around, without being cheesy or pretentious. This is a must have for hardcore fans of the band, and an experience that should not be passed up by the casual listener.