Review Summary: Creativity comes in waves.
I’m always amped whenever there’s a new The Acacia Strain album. Having first been introduced to the band with their 2008 album Continent
, and since then I've always looked forward to indulging in one of the most comfort food bands currently making music. Each release brought beefy production, breakdowns-a-plenty, and laughably morose and icky lyrics revolving around deathcore staples like distaste for humanity, the Devil, and wearing a woman’s face as a mask.
I told you—funny.
Vocalist Vincent Bennett stated in multiple interviews a desire to freshen up the band’s formula and over the years we started to see some progression. 2013’s Coma Witch
added some hardcore and doom elements (probably, in large part, to the addition of guitarist Devin Shidaker) to mixed results. Whereas 2017’s Gravebloom
could be categorized as an above average metalcore album. Both albums showcased the band trying new things but ultimately relied very heavily on breakdowns to fill space or as transitional elements. Despite multiple member changes and an aspiration for more each album still felt incredibly similar.
So imagine my surprise when I get a text from a friend saying “You gotta give this new The Acacia Strain a listen. It’s so different and you’re gonna love it.” I was surprised because, firstly, I had no idea the band was releasing new music and secondly, it IS actually pretty dang different. Instead of every song being breakdown reliant, TAS ninth release, It Comes in Waves
, is comprised of songs built around atmosphere, droning guitars, some absolutely stellar drumming, and the occasional breakdown. Progress is progress, right?
It Comes in Waves
opens with arguably the album’s strongest track. “Our” starts off with some neat, kinda eerie female vocals and as you’re settling in the band spooks ya with an abruptly disgusting drum fill fill and shriek combo. The song is unrelentingly fast and heavy— maybe one of the fastest songs in the band’s discography— and ends with a sludgy, post-metally final third. It sets a high bar for the rest of the album and aside from a few hiccups it’s regularly met.
Drummer Kevin Botout is unquestionably the strongest member of the band, providing freakishly fast rhythms and intricate fills that never overshadow. The rest of the band perform admirably with guitarists Devin and Tom Smith providing suitably atmospheric picked chords in “Only” and some surprisingly bouncy riffs in “Sin”. Bassist Griffin Landa does what I guess most bassists do in metal only getting some time in the spotlight during “Sin”. It all sounds good too, having been produced and engineered by the band themselves.
The album is strong with only a few inconsistencies coming from Vince’s delivery and lackluster inclusion of sound clips. “Sin” sees Vince trying out some raspier almost black metal highs that maybe don’t hit quite as ferociously as I’d like and “Names” uses cleans that are… fine, I guess? I like the IDEA of the cleans but the execution was flawed, sounding satirical in their over-seriousness. “Was” and closer “Names” both feature voice clips that distract more than anything. Instrumental bridges can be plenty evocative on their own and modulated vocal clips saying things like “We are being punished… for going against the will of God!” and “All places, all things have souls. All souls can be devoured.” come off as trite and forced. But maybe that’s on me, coming to this band hoping for conceptual depth.
Despite a few nitpicks the album is pretty dang solid. The band has stated that this is a taste of a proper full length coming in 2020 and it did a great job getting me excited for that release. It sounds good and finally fulfills many promises of experimentation and growth. It’s nothing earth shattering or new, but maybe that wave is cresting and will be here in no time.