Review Summary: Praying for Heaven but Begging for Hell
The trajectory in which The Acacia Strain have released music since the disastrous ‘Gravebloom’ has been focused yet eclectic, economical yet marketed brilliantly as well as explorative of heavy music with a fierce refusal to be pigeonholed. ‘It Comes it Waves’ began the process with a malevolent concept soundtracked by a dark, sludgy, noisy instrumentals akin to a doom metal band with hardcore riffs and breakdowns scattered about. ‘Slow Decay’s’ methodical release of two singles at a time with individual seven-inch vinyls proved the band knew what their audience wanted visually and conceptually and delivered products that were worthy of consumption and allowing them chart fairly high on the billboard charts for an act as aggressive as they are. This brings us to present day where The Acacia Strain have dual released ‘Step Into the Light’ which is a brash, brazen hardcore record with elements of powerviolence and deathcore as well as ‘Failure Will Follow’ which is a three track, forty-minute doom metal record. I will be analyzing the former, but the timing of these releases is beyond interesting with such vastly different approaches to the songwriting and sound whilst maintaining a similar visual aesthetic as seen on the album arts.
The brevity of this release, only clocking in at about twenty-four minutes with ten tracks, wastes no time establishing the purpose of this record which is to smash your face with riffs and breakdowns. The ferocity and pace of this record is unlike an TAS project prior with a heavy focus on cutting out fluff and jumping straight to the punchline. The dense, noisy, raw production and mix add to the visceral nature of the record without sacrificing any punch when breakdowns hit. While the overall sound of the record is fairly one note, diversity comes in the form of song-structures, Vincent’s varied vocal performances and the grooves found in the guitar work.
One of the promotional singles “CHAIN” featuring Jacob Lilly of Chamber, has some insanely nasty riffs with chaotic pace that eventually subsides into a slow, brooding breakdown passage featuring the lyrics:
“Use a chain so the noose won't snap,
I'll watch you swing and feed the rats.”
The oozing hatred and vitriol for whoever this song is intended for feels catastrophic with the devastatingly slow and punchy kicks and low tuned riffs. Vocally, Vincent was sort of a middle of the road, solid vocalist but of late, he’s shown extreme growth with his range and abilities, delivering devastating lows and shrill highs unlike anything he’s attempted before. His ability to convey pure hatred with his voice is unmatched and having seen TAS live multiple times, I can confirm that these studio vocals are no fluke and he’s indeed the real deal.
Another massive, devastating track “Sinkhole” featuring the stylings of Bay Area hardcore band Sunami’s vocalist Josef Alonso, shatters the Earth with its crushing production, heavy bass tones and thunderous breakdown to cap it all off. Alonso’s more traditional, higher pitched yelled hardcore vocals offers an interesting contrast with Vincent’s more guttural approach. Alonso is the deliverer of the pre-breakdown call out which is a simple “*** you, die slow” but it hits extremely hard, and the following collapse of sound feels apocalyptic. But if I were to sit here and describe every song on the record, I’d run out of adjectives to describe just how brutal these songs are.
Overall, this record comes as advertised. It’s a crushing display of heavy music, layered and mixed beautifully to accent the raw, powerful riffage and no holds barred simplicity of hardcore music whilst still delivering complex and interesting musical ideas. Structurally, these songs gracefully transition from fast paced powerviolence-levels of speed to slow, doomy, chuggy jolts of heavy with two-step passages and groovy mid-sections as well. It’s not reinventing anything but it’s succeeding in solidifying their legacy as one of the most unique, interesting and dynamic heavy bands of this generation.