Who’s ready for their monthly dosage of devastating breakdowns and droning atmospheric leads? Because The Acacia Strain doesn’t give a shit if you’re ready or not, ya gettin’ ’em! With seemingly unending pandemonium unfolding all over the world during these absurd times, we can at least be sure to count on Acacia Strain to provide us with an ever-pissed-off soundtrack to our new reality, giving us short tastes of new music every few weeks. After the release of previous two-track EPs ‘D’ and ‘E,’ we all knew damn well that this band was up to something. And with the new release ‘C,’ it seems as if we are finally starting to understand the bigger picture.
If the lyrics to ‘E’s ‘Solace and Serenity’ weren’t proof enough, it is now certain that The Acacia Strain are piecing together their tenth LP, which will almost definitely be entitled ‘DECAY’ at this rate. With the arrival of ‘C,’ the sun has officially vanished. Our feathered friend from the cover art of ‘D’ is long gone, and those sunflowers probably ain’t seen a drop of water in weeks. If you haven’t caught on, I’m talking about the panoramic artwork of this project that’s beginning to turn gruesome and revolting. True to the likely album title, we are watching a formerly beautiful landscape decay right before our eyes, with all signs of life crumbling as the chaos only ramps up further. This artwork theme is further proof that we can likely expect four more songs in the form of ‘A’ and ‘Y’ in the near future, but let’s talk about the pair of songs themselves on ‘C.’
‘Crossgates’ opens with fire and fury, erupting with booming, down-tuned chugs, wasting no time, running just over one absolutely devastating full minute in length. Drummer Kevin Boutout makes it known that he’s a force to be reckoned with on this ripper, pounding away at those cymbals so hard that it sounds like he had to replace them halfway through tracking. In truth, ‘Crossgates’ is about as heavy as TAS gets, being one of the most pummeling songs they’ve written since 2014’s incredible ‘Coma Witch.’ If you have been craving meaty breakdowns lately, TAS has you covered; the entire second half of ‘Crossgates‘ is pure metallic hardcore bliss. Topped off with a slowed-down breakdown and an absolutely shrill onomatopoeic shout from veteran vocalist Vincent Bennett, this short heavy-hitter packs in everything that fans love about the band.
Although the song is possibly ironically named after a shopping mall in Albany, New York (shoutout to the Metal And Core Collectors Facebook group for that hilarious bit of shinfo), the lyricism on this track does not take too kindly to society. In fact, this song seems to be all about a strong disliking of the human race as a whole, with lines like “what if we all died? What if instead of burning alive, we are living hell? We are the worst versions of ourselves” displaying a deep annoyance with the humans around us. Despite the short length, ‘Crossgates’ proves itself as possibly the best song on this album yet.
‘I Breathed In The Smoke Deeply It Tasted Like Death And I Smiled,’ which I will from now only refer to as ‘I Breathed…’ because I’m not fucking typing that out each and every time, brings this ‘C’ chapter to an astonishingly evil conclusion. This is the doomiest sounding track off this new album cycle so far. If you were satisfied with The Acacia Strain’s absolutely magnificent, surprise doom metal album ‘It Comes In Waves’ at the tail end of 2019, then you’re in luck. As ‘I Breathed…’ sounds like it was cut straight from that album’s sessions. Starting with a disgustingly distorted bass groove and ominous drum buildup, it takes its time building a dark atmosphere, before bursting into ash and flame.
The wonderful Zach Hatfield of Left Behind, who also put out a good album last year, both opens and closes ‘I Breathed…,’ perfectly executing both sections of the song. “I wish a heaven on earth for my enemies so that hell will hurt so much more” Hatfield growls menacingly, as the distortion and feedback riddled instrumental build in tension. This track touches on the subject of death and losing those that you loved, or perhaps didn’t. Lines like the simple “this has to be a terrible dream” are effective in setting an absolutely hopeless tone, as the wailing, siren-like guitars and evil chord progressions tell a similar but also different tale. However, the best aspect of this song is the monstrous groove that quakes throughout the middle sections, being reminiscent of 2017’s ‘Cold Gloom,’ or even parts off the massive ‘Observer.’ ‘I Breathed…’ stands out as the most different and experimental cut thus far in this cycle, and I’m absolutely here for it.
While ‘E’s ‘The Lucid Dream’ has slowly become one of my favorite Acacia Strain songs of all time, the songs on ‘C’ definitely have that instant likability that that other EP was lacking. The Acacia Strain continues to prove that we should expect the unexpected as this grand new LP rolls out, and that we should embrace equally new and familiar ideas as they’re presented. As a long-time fan, I could not be any happier with how this album is shaping up so far. Every song has been a different animal, with its own unique qualities and kinks. Six songs into this record, Acacia Strain aren’t showing any decline in quality. Although, I am hoping for some more ass-beating songs akin to ‘Seeing God’ or ‘Crossgates’ on the inevitable future EPs. In any case, I now eagerly but painfully await the next four weeks until we receive the next taste of heaviness from TAS.