The Acacia Strain – ‘Slow Decay’

By Dave Stewart

A lot of bands are full of rage and anger – especially in the metal community – but you’d be hard pressed to find a band harbouring more of that disgust than The Acacia Strain. The Massachusetts bruisers have been cursing the world and everything in it for almost twenty years, using gurn-worthy riffs and an unsettling heaviness to add even more weight to their negative message.

2020 has seen them gradually reveal their brand new record ‘Slow Decay’, unveiled in a series of two-track releases that culminate with the release of the full length record and a final addition of two unreleased songs. If you’re up to speed with the installations running up to this, you already know they’re out for blood. If you’re new here though, all you need to know is that they’re incredibly pissed off and they aren’t making any effort to hide it.

The first track released, ‘Feed a Pigeon, Breed a Rat’, is also the opening track of the album, immediately setting the tone for everything that follows it. Menacing riffs rocket towards your eardrums at a slow and sludgy pace, managing to intensify the heaviness over its duration as vocalist Vincent Bennett bellows the words “it feels like hell”. He’s right, it does, and so does the rest of this album.

‘Chhinnamasta’ emits classic The Acacia Strain vibes, sounding like a cut from their 2008 record ‘Continent.’ Gigantic walls of guitars are complimented by drawn out harmonies that dance in the background, waltzing from section to section as they guide you through a gut-wrenching slice of nostalgia. ‘Inverted Person’ radiates similar vibes, especially during the blood-curdling outro that shines a blindingly bright light on the force Bennett is able to generate with his vocals.

There are tracks like ‘Crippling Poison’ that provide a generous portion of hardcore-tinged rage, combining fist-pumping riffs and wrath-filled vocals together to create a pulsing, convulsing demon. The disturbing ‘Solace and Serenity’ is powerful from the off, with low rumbling guitars and unnerving drones joining forces to send chills down your spine like a metallic version of nails to a blackboard. ‘Birds of Paradise, Birds Of Prey’ is a moody and slowly creeping monster, packed full of dirty low-tuned bends, haunting clean sections and a surprising yet devastating eruption of sincerity that drives the song towards a climactic crescendo.

There’s so much aural destruction on display here, and a large portion of it also features some tasty guest spots. Zach Hatfield of Left Behind contributes his stomach-churning screams to ‘I breathed in the smoke deeply and it tasted like death and I smiled’, a gloomy and harrowing colossus marching towards a towering and terrifying finale. ‘Seeing God’ is a no holds barred rager, featuring a mammoth guest spot from Aaron Heard of Jesus Piece. His stark and feral vocals blend well with the unpredictable barbarity on display, effortlessly fitting with both the fast paced and skulking, vicious moments.

One of the best tracks on the record is ‘The Lucid Dream’ featuring Jess Nyx, lead vocalist for Canadian hardcore band Mortality Rate. Not only is it one of the heaviest tracks on the record (check out the end of the track for definitive proof) but Nyx’s guest spot also goes the hardest, her raw and banshee-like vocals acting as the perfect compliment to Bennett’s demonic growls. Guest vocalist or not, though, this record delivers everything you could want from an Acacia Strain record. And, believe us, it delivers it with a frighteningly high level of conviction.

There’s something about this record that their last few releases haven’t had. The more you listen, the more obvious it becomes. ’Slow Decay’ blends the severe brutality that we’ve come to know and love with sinister doom-ridden characteristics that linger around every single riff, and those ominous vibes transform this record from a good metal album into a formidable, frightening and ferocious one. They hinted at a more doom-based influence with their last release ‘It Comes In Waves’, and the balance they’ve found here between both elements of their sound has been masterfully chiselled into a daunting nightmarish figure. If you like heavy music, you’ll love this.

After all these years, The Acacia Strain are still as angry as they’ve ever been and, as always, they want you to be angry too. If ‘Slow Decay’ doesn’t make you clench your fists even a little bit, it’ll chill your bones and make your hairs stand on end until you submit and give in to its fury. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Then, as soon as the fear passes, be incredibly angry.

DAVE STEWART

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