The Acacia Strain – Step Into The Light

By Jack Terry

Across 22 years and 10 albums, deathcore crew The Acacia Strain have established themselves at the top of the festering pile of unbridled aural brutality that they helped usher in. By this point, their pulverising brand of downtuned dissonance has become an unstoppable beast and time after time, they deliver the same high-tier filth, pushing the crown further onto their heads.

While two decades may be the lifespan of many bands, The Acacia Strain are showing no signs of slowing here on ‘Step Into The Light’. The far more expectant part of their double release when compared to the sludge monolith of ‘Failure Will Follow’, this is a 25 minute barrage of violent, visceral deathcore that has Acacia sounding just as hungry, just as dangerous, and just as excellent as you’d hope.

Speed is the name of the game on ‘Step Into The Light’, as evident in each of the three opening tracks clocking in at under two minutes apiece. ‘Flourishing’ is a rough-around-the-edges thrill ride that hears vocalist Ethan Bennett sound more pissed off and urgent than we’ve heard him in a hot minute. ‘Calf’s Blood’ is just as explosive, with the whole band’s bloodlust thrust into the spotlight, while ‘Chain’ features Chamber vocalist Jacob Lilly to inexplicably dial up the intensity further. All told, these three songs barely last five minutes but the damage is doled out quickly. You feel every crunching guitar, every tsunami of drums, every monolithic bass line in the very pit of your being.

The tracks open up a bit more from that point, with ‘Fresh Bones’ coming in at a leisurely two minutes and 29 seconds, but they’re not taking their foot off the gas. Instead, the attack is just as brutal and more sustained – they’ve tasted blood and they want the whole meal now. This leads into a pair of highlights at the heart of this record in ‘Teeth Of The Cursed Dog’ and ‘Open Wound’. Quintessential cuts from the pantheon of The Acacia Strain’s tried-and-tested heaviness, they are utterly engrossing and irresistible in how they pummel, pound and pulverise everything in sight.

‘Sinkhole’ calls upon Sunami’s Josef Alfonso to help dish out the aural terror over four punishing minutes that lean much more heavily into the ‘-core’ part of their deathcore tag, while closer ‘None Of Us Asked To Be Here’ hints at what darkness lies within ‘Failure Will Follow’, teeming as it is with doom and sludge.

It’d be easy to point to ‘Step Into The Light’ as simply being what we’ve come to expect from The Acacia Strain. While yes, it is a continuation of everything they’ve mastered over their past 10 albums, this is them at the top of their game. They apply their experience to cut deep and true – they don’t just grab a knife and slice at you, they hold that blade over the flame so that it glides through flesh with no effort at all. They are masters of their craft that the scene cannot get enough of and when it seems that bands of their age are taking new lanes into softer directions, The Acacia Strain feels like one of the last bastions of brutality, an evergreen monument to the pit.

‘Step Into The Light’ is a superb release that nails The Acacia Strain’s reputation as one of deathcore’s most vital proponents. The content may not hold many surprises but what is a surprise is how they’re able to take everything you know and love of this band and take it to a new, unimaginable level.

JACK TERRY

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