From The Archive: The Acacia Strain – Death Is The Only Mortal
Delicate, tender, intimate – these are not words to describe the Acacia Strain’s music. Rather, theirs is a sound which could best be described as the aural equivalent of a punch to the face, as relentlessly pounding as it is violent.
However, with such a singular approach, a band treads a fine line between delivering the goods and descending into repetition. While 2010’s Wormwood certainly delivered in the punishment stakes, the album did suffer from becoming stale in places.
The good news is, Death is the only Mortal sees the Acacia Strain introducing new elements to their sound, and implementing subtle nuances within their signature sonic onslaught. While there are plenty of doomy breakdowns to keep fans happy, the album provides some welcome variety and curveballs.
Immediately noticeable is the increased musicianship on display throughout the album’s ten tracks. Although not a showcase in virtuosity, (indeed, such an approach would detract from the purpose of the music) guitarist DL provides plenty of coiling riffs amidst the slabs of chugging chords. Drummer Kevin Boutot also provides an excellent performance throughout, mixing solid grooves and frenetic passages with the precision of guided missiles. Vocalist Vincent Bennett’s performance throughout Death… is also a step up from Wormwood , retaining his distinct roar while utilising a range of higher screams and guttural growls, adding extra bile to his misanthropic, sometimes darkly humorous lyrics.
Perhaps most surprising of all are the instances of straight-up melody heard on Death… a factor which may divide some of the bands hardcore fans, but one that inarguably brings new depth their work. Brain Death offers a chorus of twisted beauty alongside a soaring guitar lead, while clean guitars shimmer within the mix of a number of tracks. The album’s closing track, House of Abandon, crescendos with haunting piano and mournful guitars, providing a real moment of surprise and calm after the storm.
Another area where the album differentiates itself from its predecessor is in the variety of tempos within songs. Where Wormwood maintained a mid-tempo attack throughout the majority of its duration, Death… takes proceedings up a gear when it counts, such as in the deliciously thrashy Dust and the Helix.
Portions of Death… also show some influence from the “Djent” sound. Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow demonstrates this perfectly, its machine gun intro swerving into a neck-snapping break which owes some debt to Meshuggah. However, the Acacia Strain incorporate these influences without losing their identity, or coming across as imitators.
The Acacia Strain succeed in exploring new territories with Death is the Only Mortal while retaining the malice at the core of their sound, making for a solid and enjoyable listen. However, some ideas do begin to resurface, making for a sense of déjà vu in places. This shortcoming aside Death… is an effort worth the time of any fan of modern heavy music, and hopefully signposts future experimentation from the band.
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