“The axe forgets, the flesh remembers”
With over twenty years of pure in-your-face metal to their name, The Acacia Strain stands tall on top of the mountain of heavy music. Now they are delivering us their eleventh and twelfth full-length albums, proving once again they are one of the most consistent and hard-working heavy bands around. The average album cycle is two years, and The Acacia Strain has gifted us with two vastly different sonic journeys at once. Further nailing home that as time goes by, the band remains to be a force of utter devastation.
Step Into The Light is an unstoppable freight train featuring twenty-three minutes of absolute destruction. Fast, heavy, and unrelenting. The guitars from Devin Shidaker and Mike Mulholland are the foundation of this record, while Kevin Boutot’s drums add a layer of nuanced complexity. The sound is made complete with vocalist Vincent Bennett’s signature vocal range. A lot of vocalists certainly have range, but not a lot can span genres as Bennett does. He treats his vocal cords like a chameleon, matching with whatever subgenre the band decides to venture towards.
Songs like “Chain,” “Fresh Bones,” and “Untended Graves” almost give you whiplash with how they transition from heart-pounding urgency to The Acacia Strain’s signature slow beats you punch your friends to. It’s done masterfully. “Teeth of the Cursed Dog,” “Is This Really Happening,” and “Sinkhole” are pure evolutions of their earlier work, taking their old mosh central mentality and making it current and still fit the new mold of the band. Let’s call them spin-kick anthems.
In comparison, Failure Will Follow is epic, slow, and methodical. Truly feeling like the soundtrack of a hellscape post-apocalyptic future. Bennett describes this record as an alternate reality version of The Acacia Strain. A “What if?” scenario. The band is no stranger to bending genres, but this record is certainly the deepest they have dove into the well of experimentation. While Step Into The Light is an incredible blend of what the band has accomplished over the last twenty years, Failure Will Follow gives us a look into the multiverse of what The Acacia Strain could have been. Imagine Deathcore mixed with slow doom and sludge-inspired guitar parts. The album is only made up of three tracks, but you never feel the length with neck-snapping guitar licks paired with monumental piano sections.
The Acacia Strain has always been an amalgamation of metalcore, deathcore, and hardcore, allowing them to span genres and not be pigeonholed to a certain type of band. These two records are the perfect exemplification of that. Some bands find a formula and stick to it. The Acacia Strain strives to go above and beyond. Not only by fine-tuning their own sound, but playing in other subgenres of metal. Both of these records are not to be ignored. An expert culmination of a seasoned group that’s reached the pinnacle of hard-hitting music, both physically and mentally.
Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it?: Buy it. Stream it. Go see them live. The Acacia Strain has been a mainstay in the scene for over two decades and continues to evolve.