Review Summary: It feels like hell
Over three years ago, Acacia Strain released their 8th album Gravebloom, their gloomiest and slowest paced record yet, and is arguably their worst released album since their debut. It also just so happens to be the most important album that led to the development of Slow Decay. Acacia wanted a new sound, simple enough premise for a band, sure, but with Acacia being Acacia, Acacia has to stay y'know, stay Acacia. Breakdowns, Low Vocals, Hardcore-esq Chuggs. Yes, that such is a standard affair for the scene, sure, but no band could ever come close to capturing the unique sound The Acacia Strain brings to the table. When it came to sound changes, Wormwood did this for the band perfectly, straying far (but still very Acacia) from any previous sound they had, which paved their sound for the next 3 albums. Including Gravebloom. And Gravebloom was the sign of the opposite happening, cracks were showing underneath their skin, showing signs of wasted potential and potentially less inspired song writing. Let this not be a “***ting upon” Gravebloom however, for the album does plenty right. Its darker and gloomier tones work very with Acacias style, as previously introduced with Coma Witch (although to a lesser extent), but those gloomed tones were exactly the cracks Acacia was bleeding, they unfortunately translate into an, at times, boring and long drawn out mess. It worked perfectly in the absolute killer closer Cold Gloom, but that style only works in a song dedicated to that 9 minutes of long overdue gloom. In Gravebloom it felt like it was shoved in almost every song's breakdown. Not fun.
So, When It Comes in Waves was dropped on our heads out of nowhere, the biggest surprise around that album was just how Acacia said *** it and made a doom record (citation needed). It was an outright sound change with only the appropriate amount of the Acacia touch added to the mix. An absolutely monstrous album, fans praising it their best ever, bringing back old fans and bringing in plenty new, everyone was content, especially Acacia. They went completely out of their comfort zone (still in the Acacia zone) and nailed it. A seemingly opposite reaction from Gravebloom. But like? Now what? Does Acacia dive deeper into this sound and explore it more? Well, not entirely.
We won’t kid ourselves here now, Acacia is still going to be Acacia. But allow me to assure you that is not a bad thing. Why do the previous two albums pertain to this one? Well, Acacia essentially got that creative endeavor out their systems with ICIW and have now come back stronger than they ever have been. Slow Decay showcases every ounce of potential lost and found in Gravebloom and essentially combines it with the doomed nature of It Comes in Waves. Slow Decay is a masterful showcase of everything The Acacia Strain has already done perfectly, cranks it up and smashes it together with the ICIW-esque sound, giving it the Acacia formula and releasing it as Slow Decay.
Slow Decay is in your face with its aggressive driving riffs and viciously dark energy as much as its forcing you to lay back and witness the intensity behind its heaviest doomed out sections. The transition between Seeing God
to Solace and Serenity
is a perfect representation of that, with the former bringing in meanest Acacia intro yet and an absolute beast of a guest vocalist that was perfectly utilized within the song while the latter being a perfect showcase for the albums thematic of slowly decaying with its gradual steep into a heavier more destructive breakdown without overplaying it. Every guest vocalist here actually plays their role perfectly. Aaron Herd and Jess Nyx absolutely destroy their verses, and having Zach Hetfield featured on the album's gloomiest track,” I breathed in the smoke... “ was such a fantastic inclusion for the album's darkest track. Even in One Thousand Pain Stings
where Courtney LaPlante...doesn’t scream? Or even a verse, she sings the outro of the track but she does it perfectly. But that’s it. It may have been a seemingly overkill inclusion for a smaller and insignificant part, so call it my only complaint about this album. (5 -> 4.5).
Slow Decay surely is a depressing album. It is loud, it is heavy and it is angry and those traits all find themselves in a bundle of sadness, one way or another. Vocally, Instrumentally and Lyrically. Each and every way you would interpret Vincent's vague lyrics always pulls itself into a bleak theme. Obvious with a title named Slow Decay, but Vincets way of blunty delivering each and every dismal, bleak syllable puts a mark of calamity on every line.
And that's exactly the energy found in every part of this album that elevates every culmination of gloomed sound from ICIW and wraps it up into this new era of Acacia, bloomed from the grave left behind from their 8th album and evolved with their 9th, The Acacia Strain is stronger than ever on their 10th LP.