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In their nineteen years, it seems like The Acacia Strain has done all they can to squirm and writhe their way out of categorization and conformity. Just when you think you have them figured out, they always seem to hit a hard reset; changing everything you think you know about them in an instant. The biggest example of this is, obviously, their 2019 experimental doom-metal project, ‘It Comes In Waves,’ whose surprise release was made even more shocking by a complete 180-degree shift in musical direction. Nevertheless, it seems that no matter what this band tries, they always somehow manage to strike gold. Not a single one of their albums in the past decade or so has sounded similar to any of the others, but they all have one thing in common: they kick an absurd amount of ass. All of this considered, when the band started releasing this new album in monthly two-song bursts, I never once lost faith that the full LP would be something special.
In a sense, ‘Slow Decay’ is the perfect title for The Acacia Strain’s ninth full-length album. Listening to this album feels like watching the world around you crumble and burn to nothing but ash and shit, reflected in the stupidly heavy music and apocalyptic lyricism. ‘Slow Decay’ forces you to take a look around at our society and our very Earth, and to realize that not everything is as peachy as it seemed when you were a kid. It’s not now and it never was. This album is the sound of sheer rage and turmoil bubbling up to the surface, and the refusal to accept our current state of living. ‘Slow Decay’ takes a long hard look into the mirrors of society, environment, and self, watching as something monstrous stares back.
‘Feed a Pigeon Breed a Rat’ opens the record with unsettling, rhythmic clicking and winding, before suddenly exploding into lightning-fast guitar picking and ground-rumbling drop F open guitar notes. Never one for over the top technicality, The Acacia Strain keeps the songwriting simple and groove-centered on this brief cut, punishing you with a barrage of brutal chugs and pounding double-kicks. The band then suddenly switches gears with the oddly Southern sounding ‘Crippling Poison,’ which kicks down the door with one of the gnarliest guitar riffs on the entire twelve-track album. This track is without a doubt an immediate standout, crushing your skull with brute chugging and groove-laden riffage.
‘Seeing God’ picks up the pace, gnashing its snarling blood-stained teeth right out of the gate, with speedy fight riffs and disgustingly distorted bass grooves. Let me make this clear; this is THE BEST track on the whole record, and one of the best songs the band has ever written. Period. Just when you think The Acacia Strain is stuttering and bogging down, ‘Seeing God’ hits you with a gut punch of a breakdown, made all the more better by a guest feature by the wickedly talented Aaron Heard of the kick-ass Jesus Piece. This is a song that somehow deserves an entire paragraph of its own (but I’ll spare you all), bringing Acacia Strain’s sound to a level of speed and fury that’s never been heard before.
Don’t get it twisted though: ‘Slow Decay’ isn’t all just fight riffs and meaty breakdowns. The Acacia Strain proved to the world at the tail end of 2019 that they are much more than your average whatever-core band, and that sludgy sound rears its head yet again at certain points on this new record. ‘I breathed in the smoke deeply it tasted like death and i smiled’ (have I mentioned how much I hate that song title?) feels like drowning in a pool of grime and vomit, with its slow, meticulous build that leads towards an evil and pungent conclusion. The grizzly conflict between the guitars and bass on ‘I breathed…‘ make me feel like I’m burning alive, but in the best euphemism way possible, of course.
Elsewhere, one of the two new songs, ‘Birds of Paradise, Birds of Prey,’ proves to be one of the most dynamic and lively tracks that Acacia Strain has ever written. Seriously, if I were to play someone a clip of the beginning of this song, and then a clip of the end, they probably would think it’s nowhere near the same track. ‘Birds of Paradise, Birds of Prey’ opens with an incredibly heavy breakdown intro, with sickeningly low guitar bends and choppy, juggling drum patterns. It then transforms into something much more melodic and despair-filled, having parts that almost have some serious Fit For An Autopsy vibes. I also can’t fail to mention that wicked one-liner in the intro, where frontman Vincent Bennett belts “I fell asleep in god’s arms and woke up in hell.” ‘One Thousand Painful Stings’ follows a similar theme of stark contrast in tone, with the first half being blistering and crushing, and the second becoming more atmospheric and dark. With ‘Slow Decay,’ it seems that The Acacia Strain has strove to throw more surprises into their tracks, and it’s incredibly refreshing to hear. May that never change moving forward.
Regardless, nobody should be concerned about the band becoming any less heavy due to these few “different” tracks; the majority of side B of ‘Slow Decay’ is just stomper after ass-beating stomper. ‘Chhinnamasta’ radiates pure ignorance, with skin-boiling, freight train chugs and heavy-hitting vocals. Then, just one track previous, ‘Inverted Person’ features the absolute heaviest breakdown on the whole damn record, also showcasing some absolutely incredible boomer-hating lyrics, breaking up the sheer seriousness of the record’s majority theme. The Acacia Strain really slaps you around like a metallic ragdoll during this four-to-five track run, showing absolutely no mercy to any and all future mosh-pitters.
‘Slow Decay’ takes you through a journey of both external and internal hatred and resentment, lashing out at anything and everything that it deems deserving of scathing criticism and punishment. ‘Crossgates’ is the perfect example of this, with lines like “what if instead of burning alive, we are living hell? We are the worst versions of ourselves” permeating a deep loathing for what society has transformed into.
Elsewhere, ‘The Lucid Dream’ tackles the decay of our morality, and subsequently, perhaps even simultaneously, our very environment. The incredible Jess Nyx (from the angriest hardcore band on the planet right now, Mortality Rate) hops on the track for a guest feature, delivering its best line in “we flee like rats feasting upon the scraps. Clear eyes, sunshine, living on borrowed time.” With the lyricism of ‘Slow Decay,’ it is made abundantly clear that Bennett takes issue with many different factors of our current world. And rightfully fucking so! After all, we’re nothing but a cannibalistic colony of ants, gorging ourselves on the remains of those who make up the bottom of the totem pole.
Okay, let’s be real: no one is surprised that I love this record. Not after all of my coverage of its drip-feed release. To put it bluntly, ‘Slow Decay’ (and ‘It Comes In Waves’) sits atop the pinnacle era of The Acacia Strain. Not ‘Wormwood.’ Not ‘Continent.’ This shit right here. Their current lineup is, as I mentioned in my recent interview with Devin Shidaker, is the greatest version of The Acacia Strain that has ever existed. An astonishing achievement for a nineteen-year-old band. While most “veteran” acts seem to always end up eating their own dicks at some point, The Acacia Strain proves that older bands can still pack one hell of a punch, making some of the best music to come out of this genre right now. (You can fight me, you can @ me, but I do not care.) ‘Slow Decay’ feels like The Acacia Strain have once again found their passion for creating brutal and desolate art, and have taken that passion to the very edge of its potential. ‘Slow Decay’ is the new essential Acacia Strain record, rivaling the multiple resonant and mosh classics that they have spawned over the years. I am strongly, selfishly, hoping that these guys don’t hang up their towels for quite a while, as ‘Slow Decay’ proves that TAS are still one of the coolest heavy bands around.
Feed a Pigeon Breed a Rat
Seeing God (feat. Aaron Heard)
Solace and Serenity
The Lucid Dream (feat. Jess Nyx)
I breathed in the smoke deeply it tasted like death and i smiled (feat. Zach Hatfield)
One Thousand Painful Stings (feat. Courtney LaPlante)
Birds of Paradise, Birds of Prey
EARTH WILL BECOME DEATH
‘Slow Decay’ is out Friday, July 24th: