Review Summary: The Acacia Strain's "Wormwood" threatens to drown the listener in the sea of its enormous sound.
The Acacia Strain brought things to an elevated level in 2010 with their fifth studio album, "Wormwood." This records features the same lineup as 2008's "Continent" with Vincent Bennett on vocals, guitarist Daniel "DL" Laskiewicz, bass guitar by Jack Strong, and Kevin Boutet manning the kit. "Wormwood" features 12 songs with a total length of about 48 minutes.
After 2008's alluringly heavy "Continent," The Acacia Strain apparently were not finished with finding how big they could actually make their sound. In comes "Wormwood," with even lower-tuned guitars, higher production value, chunkier grooves, and earth-moving breakdowns. Listeners that are familiar with the Acacia Strain's work will find themselves right at home with lyrical themes of anger, misanthropy, a little technophia, and although the misogynistic content of previous efforts seems to have been toned down, it has been supplemented with a heaping serving of nihilism. The mood is portrayed to potent effect with lines like "I will set the fires that make the ocean burn, I am the one who will poison the world," and "This world is a graveyard, I don't give a f*ck." Most of the songs on this album are made up of mid-tempo riffs, with the exception of a few slightly speedier sections, and, of course, breakdowns. While there is a general lack of purposeful musical technicality throughout this album, "Wormwood" makes up for that by providing a sound that will rumble the listener's whole body. Although they use very low-tuning and production that emphasizes the bottom end, the sound never gets muddy or unclear and each instrument is fairly clear in the mix (however, the listener my struggle to discriminate the guitar from the bass guitar).
The good: For listeners that want something heavy, this album opens with "Beast," which could be an appropriate name for the whole record. It has a heavy, slow, chugging main riff and a big chorus, featuring Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. "Ramirez" and "Nightman" are two song that bring up the tempo and are well-placed in the track list to break up the offerings of slower songs, and the latter has another great chorus. Though the listener might refer to any song on the album as "heavy," this author saves the superlative "heaviest" for "BTM FDR" (bottom feeder) and "The Hills Have Eyes." Both of these tracks have sections (breakdowns) that this author likes to refer to as "bottoming out," where the already deep, thundering sound plunges even further to provide the aforementioned "earth-moving" feel.
The bad: As mentioned earlier, the album has a lack of musical technicality. It is effective in it's delivery, but could benefit from a few well-placed solos, or even an instrumental reminiscent of "The Behemoth" from "Continent," or "Halcyon" from 2004's "3750." Although, one could argue that something like that could take away from the album's general mood and sound. On the subject of instrumentals, "Wormwood" ends with a track called "Tactical Nuke," a song that begins with a slow, groove-ish riff that continues to slow down as the tempo comes to a crawl by the end of its 5 minute and 34 second runtime. While this song is effective at winding down the album, the listener may find themselves just wanting it to end, instead of enjoying one last offering from the band.
The bottom line: "Wormwood" takes what made "Continent" great and amps up everything that its predecessor had without recycling any of its content. This album would also serve as a good introduction to the casual listener as its simplistic design is easy to listen to. The Acacia Strain set out to make one of the heaviest albums ever, and delivered a straightforward, no-holds-barred offering. This is an essential album for any fan of The Acacia Strain, and definitely warrants a listen from the casual metalcore/hardcore fan as well.