THE ACACIA STRAIN’S CONTINENT IS AGGRESSIVE AND ENGAGING
It seems only about a year ago when I first started hearing the word “deathcore.” I remember immediately thinking that although this seemed like one of those sub-genres that everyone knew some teenagers in New England or the Midwest were eventually going to slap it together one summer to take their youth-center scene by storm, it still didn’t make a lick of sense to me. Even though musically the line between hardcore and metal had been nothing but a thin chalk scraping for years, I still wasn’t able to put together in my head how this combination was supposed to work. Were the long-hairs suddenly going to wear hoodies and Fidel hats on-stage? What were the lyrics going to be like? “Standing together united, brothers and sisters, to regurgitate the festering unborn?” In my head this was not an easy gap to bridge but when I was finally confronted with some actual musical output it just sounded like shitty death metal.
The Acacia Strain’s Continent is perhaps one of the first records to really bring to my mind an even fusion of hardcore and death metal and it’s an aggressive, engaging album – period.
They impression from the opener “Skynet” is that this band is not interested in wasting your time, giving the listener only thirty seconds of a fuzzy sample before the first chugga—chug riff kicks in. This attitude is maintained throughout as the songs (at least those that break the 3 minute mark) develop quickly and generally move forward. Nothing becomes too repetitive and the adrenaline is carried by almost gapless track transitions. The band wanders from thrashy grooves and pinch-harmonic riffs in tracks like “Cthulhu” to inspirational interludes in “JFC” to devilish harmonies in “Baby Buster.” And of course, they’re not afraid to break it down for you in almost every song, often multiple times in the same song, in both the hardcore and the death metal varieties. You the listener are lucky, however, as The Acacia Strain’s breakdowns are never too predictable and these boys seem to have taken a few classes at the Meshuggah school of rhythm.
Despite keeping many recognizably hardcore elements, this group has kept one of the genre’s goofiest features, gang vocals, to a minimum. This is downright surprising as many of the lyrics are so tongue in cheek or intentionally cliché you almost want to work up a sweat and sub in your own vocals. Personally I couldn’t help but put my hood up and shout lines like “I am the end of the world!”, or “You want a war? I’ll give you a fucking war. You wanted a war, so I gave you a fucking war!”, or my favorite, “Four funerals… no fucking wedding!” It might not be poetry, but fuck it this is real.
However, (and if you skipped to the score at the end you know there was a “but” coming somewhere), Continent suffers in its lack of longevity. The album, though satisfying at first, reveals very little upon repeated listens and my initial enthusiasm dwindled quickly into disappointment. Maybe this is the way of all deathcore; maybe it really is just a flash in the pan trend like the critics always claimed, taking our attention for a moment but, like other once popular sub-genres, doomed to be over-saturated, forgotten, and eventually replaced by another, newer trend. Maybe there’s just not enough here to make it last. Whether The Acacia Strain will reign with this well-crafted albeit short-lived album or whether they’ll even be a footnote down the line remains to be seen. Regardless of what’s to happen to them or deathcore as a whole they couldn’t have ended Continent on a better note than “The Behemoth,” a soaring instrumental that closes the album perfectly by sounding like nothing else on it. It’s an unexpected, refreshing finish that you’re likely to remember beyond the life of the album, and also an optimistic note at what this band might be capable of in the future.
(3 out of 5 horns)