“The inevitable, violent ending; or so we are told.”
Finally. The series of EPs that The Acacia Strain have been slowly releasing over the course of 2020 now culminates into the magnificent ‘Y.’ Featuring two brand new, brain-rottingly heavy tunes, this officially marks the end of ‘DECAY.’ A long time coming, and while the album roll out has been remarkably unique, I hope to god the band never does anything like it ever again. It’s a cool concept, bringing some incredible artwork and themes along with it, but as a massively impatient veteran Acacia Strain fan, the wait in between EPs has been painful.
Nevertheless, today I’m here to talk about ‘Y,’ and why it is one of the best EPs in this whole series. I know I made a similar statement about the previous EP in the series, but holy hell; this band keeps flooring me with this new material. While it only barely misses the extremely jarring impressiveness of ‘A,’ I can say with confidence that ‘Y’ is the clear runner up for the best EP released under this ‘DECAY’ roll out. These two new tracks are violent, ominous, and downright unsettling at times. ‘Y’ sees the slight return of the doomy, brooding ‘It Comes In Waves’ sound, with touches of a desolate, cold gloom wrapping its arms around the listener, slowly crushing them to death.
“You think I’m scared of death? I’ve done it a million times, and I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died?”
An eerie sample from Westworld dauntingly catalyses the eviscerating, ripping guitar bends of ‘One Thousand Painful Stings,’ before TAS smashes you over the head with riffage straight out of Left Behind’s playbook. This track erupts into earth-shattering chaos and pure red carnage, sounding like a mutated love child of ‘It Comes In Waves’ and ‘Coma Witch’. The song makes for one of the most unique on the LP thus far, with thick, pummelling chugs and skin crawling ambience. The push and pull of verse and chorus sections eventually spirals into a demonic, pitch-shifted choir section, featuring reverby clean guitars that sound like a subtle gust of wind amidst a ravenous downpour. The band violently interrupts this calm with an earthquake-level breakdown that is beefier than middle-America’s combined diet. Courtney LaPlante of the fantastic Spiritbox guides this chaotic cut to its end, with some unsettling singing passages ushering the soft ring-out. I knew this feature was going to be great before even pressing play, and while it was certainly refreshing to hear some brilliantly placed clean vocals on an Acacia Strain song, I can’t help but wish such an incredible guest vocalist was utilised a tad more. Nevertheless, ‘One Thousand Painful Stings’ still makes for one of the biggest moments on ‘DECAY,’ and that’s what matters most.
After the brief moment of serenity provided at the end of its predecessor, the surprisingly short closer, ‘EARTH WILL BECOME DEATH,’ brings this frantic metal journey to its inevitable ending, in perhaps the best way possible. The Acacia Strain immediately slaps you in the mouth with an apocalyptic groove, with tasty guitar licks being very reminiscent of ‘Was.’ This cut has the biggest emphasis on their guitar work in ‘DECAY’, with smooth, slick progressions and seamless transitions shining a massive light on Acacia Strain’s magnificent songwriting skills. Following choruses that sound like what it probably feels like to be lit on fire, the track winds down into haunting, delay-soaked guitar passages and war-drum build-ups, crescendoing into a disturbingly heavy chug-filled breakdown. The beefy guitars and grimy bass grooves stutter briefly before exploding into china bashing madness. While this is much different from the band’s usually over-long album closers – such as the slow burning ‘Cold Gloom’ or the epic, 28-minute ‘Observer’ – it does a great job of condensing those tracks’ feeling of uncertainty and power down into a neat and tidy four minutes. I honestly couldn’t ask for much more.
‘Y’ is a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic series of EPs, delivering another pair of great songs to round off this era of The Acacia Strain. However, I can’t help but ask if is this really the end? If one were to cursorily poke around the interwebs (meaning some boneheaded record shop that accidentally leaked the full album details), you’d find whispers of an album titled ‘Slow Decay,’ which features an additional two songs added onto this 10-song track-listing. Secret additional songs aside, the songs on ‘Y’ are bold and bruising smashers, ushering in the end of an extremely awesome series. Whether it’s the true end or not, ‘DECAY’ is yet another shining example as to why I truly believe that the current era of The Acacia Strain’s 19 year long career is the best yet. This is another one for the books.