Massachussetts maulers The Acacia Strain
are a band that have simply reeked of pure hatred since day one. Since 2001, they have put out some of the filthiest records in the history of deathcore itself. From “And Life
Is Very Long” to “3750” to “The Dead Walk
” to “Continent
” to “Wormwood,” it’s been made incredibly clear that The Acacia Strain
’s greatest intention is to shatter skulls and bang heads. As a fairly seasoned band, they’ve also been through tons of lineup change, ranging from members from metal and hardcore outfits such as Blood Has Been Shed
, All That Remains
, and Fit For An Autopsy
. Now, having finally settled as a quintet, the band has returned in 2012
to continue down their path of destruction. Their sixth full-length record, “Death Is the Only Mortal,” is the album that sees this vehement return. Loaded
with ten tracks, this album proves that The Acacia Strain
is continuing their intent to do what they do best: Bring out some of the most brutal and nihilistic deathcore in the scene.
Compared to their previous records, The Acacia Strain
has actually progressed some in terms of their musicianship. First of all, the vocals have picked up some variety, ranging from Vincent Bennett’s usual low growls to vicious mid and higher-pitched vocals. This is a rather intriguing change, especially compared to the band’s previous album “Wormwood,” because now there is much more diversity when it comes to the vocal range. This is obviously a great change, because that comes to show that there is more versatility and variance in the vocal range, and the way they sound completely clicks to the angry mood of the music. Another change that “Death Is the Only Mortal” sees is the new dynamicity in the drumming. While the music mostly consists of the usual slow yet explosive drum beats, the drums in this album have actually gotten a bit faster at some points. This is another good shift in the band’s sound, because, once again, it comes to show the musicianship’s newfound diversity in speed and range. The guitars, on the other hand, are mostly the same, with their usual deeply-toned, visceral, and destructive chugs and occasional haunting melodies. Overall, one of the high points for “Death Is the Only Mortal” is the progression in musicianship it has established.
In “Death Is the Only Mortal,” The Acacia Strain
is proceeding with their sluggish deathcore ravage that has had teeth grinding for years. The extremely devastating breakdowns and low chugs are all there, just how they have been for the past records. As a result, old-timer fans will not be very disappointed. The album kicks off its brutality with “Doomblade,” which starts with an audio clip from the horror film The Devil Inside
, and then explodes into a steady-paced but crushing onslaught of deathcore slams. The nightmarish guitar melodies faded in the background throughout the song emphasize the unpleasant tone of this track, and it makes for a much more memorable listen. It’s a fittingly brutal start for a brutal release, so it starts off on a very strong foot. Other sluggishly slaughtering highlights of this album include “Go to Sleep
,” featuring the sludgy vocals of Kirk
Windstein of Crowbar
and Kingdom Of Sorrow
, and “The Chambered Nautilus,” which erupts in blistering grooves. However, while the slow violence in “Death Is the Only Mortal” will wreak havoc in the mosh pits, it does tend to get monotonous, because the tracks do sound too similar for their own good. What was so great about this band’s previous works was that the songs had plenty of variety in between, so it would have been nice if this was present in this album. Nonetheless, “Death Is the Only Mortal” demonstrates the sheer brutality that this band has always put out.
While the steady-paced deathcore tracks have returned in “Death Is the Only Mortal,” the fast side of The Acacia Strain
has also come back. However, compared to the rest of the band’s discography, there actually appears to be more demonstration of this faster side of The Acacia Strain
’s onslaught than before. This speed isn’t anything totally extreme or outside of the band’s realm; there’s no rapid-fire technical blast beats or anything of the sort. However, there are moments in this album that really get the blood pumping with parts of songs that turn out to be faster-paced than the rest. One such example is in the seventh song entitled “Victims
of the Cave.” It starts off with the band’s usual deathcore eruption, but about one-third into the song, the violence transitions into a more pumped-up track, before receding back to its slow destruction. “Dust
and The Helix
” is also another example of the integration of speed into the band’s music, and this speed covers the song head to toe. The steady explosions of deathcore sledgehammering are still there, so the band fortunately doesn’t sacrifice identity and brutality for speed. It is a rather interesting shift in sound that The Acacia Strain
has brought into “Death Is the Only Mortal,” and it makes room for some good dynamicity in this album without loss of flow.
Along with the music itself, the band’s lyrical tone is what you would expect from a The Acacia Strain
record: Pessimistic, misanthropic, unkind, negative, and unpleasant. They coldly target themes such as religion, humanity, and death. Although all of the tracks in this record mainly focus around these themes, each one does not really have a specific message. In other words, there is a lot of scattered lines throughout each song’s lyrics, and it does occasionally tend to get quite silly. “Victims
of the Cave” best displays the jumping around of different subjects. First it refers to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, with the lines “Victims
of the cave, we are drawn to the light, we will never be saved.” However, immediately afterwards, the focus on the lyrics goes all over the place, switching from subjects such as hardcore threats (I am your pain and heartache, I am your up at night, I am everything you hate about your fucking life) and survival and death (I cannot live, I refuse to die… So then someday soon even death will die). “Go to Sleep
” also showcases this lyrical aspect, with subjects including their usual gruesome pessimism (You try and see but you have no eyes… Wallow in the shit that falls from the sky) and themes involving life and death (Life
is a nightmare, death is a gift… I welcome death with open arms). Oddly enough, despite the obvious negativity in the band’s lyrics, the album artwork is actually somewhat uplifting. Out
of the eye socket of a decaying skull pops out a tiny bird; out of death, new life is born. Nevertheless, the lyrics in “Death Is the Only Mortal” are as gloomy and antagonistic as ever.
The Acacia Strain
has made a strong return in “Death Is the Only Mortal.” While there is not too much progression to speak of, aside from the addition of higher-pitched vocals and increase of faster tracks, old fans will definitely want to get their hands on this album. The steadily-paced and low-tuned deathcore and the half-hidden haunting guitar melodies in the background make this album a giant wrecking ball, just like the rest of the band’s collection. Although the record does have some flaws, including the noticeable lack of diversity between the tracks and the sometimes silly lyrics, the album has plenty of redeeming qualities that make it a nonetheless decent release. and musicianship has progressed somewhat in terms of vocals and drums, the music is brutal, crude, and unrelenting, the sound production is explosive, and the lyrics are as negative as usual. Those who are in search of something to bang their heads violently or destroy things to will certainly want to give this album a listen. As stated, old loyal fans will also likely take pleasure in the brutal deathcore that “Death Is the Only Mortal” has to offer, along with any diehard deathcore and hardcore fan. This album does not disappoint, and it surely comes across as one of the most pissed off records of the year.