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Review: The Acacia Strain – Gravebloom

The Acacia Strain release their eighth album just hours ago on the 30th of June. It was definitely worth the wait, and “Gravebloom” could be one of the best titles from Rise Records this year.

In the form of a few simple and slow chugs, “Worthless” is perhaps the most simple song of the year in the deathcore market. One of the things that will always make this band unique is Vincent Bennett’s bellowing vocal style over simple yet catchy riffs. This takes me back to Jonestown from the Wormwood album; its the perfect song to have on your gym playlist that can be used as a motivating metronome for reps. No matter how simple it is, you can never get tired of it.

Picking up the pace, “Plague Doctor” is like an answer to a wish I had a long time ago. When I first heard Cauterizer, I listened to that song over and over just so that I could hear that distorted bass pong in the slow breakdown. Well, I’m pleased to say that Plague Doctor has that distinct down tuned and distorted bass pong happening throughout the song, so thanks a bunch, guys!

“Bitter Pill” would be the song to take to every concert and have as a video clip, for it certainly will be a favourite on the album for many listeners. It starts off as a perfect up-tempo hardcore song to keep the circle runners happy. To change things up a bit, there is a long pause in the middle of the song which leads to a slow and heavy breakdown. And then… It finishes on a proper slam riff, chromatics and all, even escalating on speedy double-work. Easily one of the best songs on the album.

If there were ever a song that could be considered stoner rock from this genre, it would definitely be the opening riff to “Big Sleep”. It’s got that swaying kind of feel that makes one want to dance while obnoxiously guzzling a bottle of Jacks. However, this song is far from predictable. There are palm-muted rhythm segments followed by unexpected and interjecting hooks. It’s the little details like the double-kick fills that keep this song interesting. I have to say, they’ve certainly matured as song writers.

“Gravebloom” is the song that listeners will want to bounce to. I love these kinds of songs at concerts purely because its the only time that the audience is ever equal; it doesn’t matter whether you’re ripped, scrawny, petite, or overweight – there is no crowd killing of any sort, everyone bounces on the spot in perfect sync. The breakdowns are in no shortage, but what really makes this song stand out is the guitar solo. Having pioneered this slow breakdown interval business, it only makes sense that this would be the guitarist to find the perfect guitar solo for the soaring and fading breakdown. Up until now, I never would have imagined it.

For a whole minute, “Abyssal Depths”, felt like an intermission with a simple yet barely strumming intro. I had to turn it up and move my ear closer to the speaker as I heard some incoherent talking. Then Bam! Out of nowhere, the song startled me and almost knocked me off my seat… well played, guys. Vocally and instrumentally, there is so much emotion felt from this track. I can hear the lyrics more clearly on this song than any other, and I think this would be the one that helps people that are going through some hard times – this is not the only one, but we’ll get to that later.

We gotta love tracks that sound like their namesake. “Model Citizen” is one of those tracks that just define this band’s sound. If songs were people, this one would be a model citizen of the band’s entire discography. I really couldn’t begin to tell you which segment reminds me of which song, so instead, I’ll say that this is the song you would want to show to a person that has never listened to The Acacia Strain before. It’s got breakdowns, but in a non-generic way, the echoing riffs give it an inexplicable flavour, the vocals and drums come at you like solid punches, and most importantly, it’s not one of their older songs – we all know bands that can only be defined by their old material when we talk about the peak of their career.

“Calloused Mouth” is the track that lets every member shine. For most of the first segment, it is the drums that are dominating with a variety of fills and very keen legwork on the double-kicks. The guitars and bass intertwine passively, accentuating the vocals for the whole duration. The vocals at one point do what sounds like the toilet bowl technique I usually hear in Death Grind bands – this got me by surprise. At the end of the track I heard some interesting chugs as the song fades out, I couldn’t help but smile and think, “what are you doing hiding over there? Cheeky!”

The fastest track would be “Dark Harvest”. They resisted the temptation of turning it into a thrash metal song by staying true to a hardcore rhythm and slowing down in the choruses. There is a great build up leading to a breakdown, and the song fades on a slower and heavier array if breakdowns, just how we like it!

The most interesting intro to a track would have to be “Walled City”. Think of a drum roll at a circus or a military march, now imagine all four limbs trying to simulate a drum roll, that’s the intro of this track. The rest of the song is very slow paced, giving it a doom feel. In light of this, the vocals have a very howling and powerful presence giving me the mental image of a war-torn fortress in a barren wasteland. There is most likely a political aspect to this song, but let’s not ruin by going there..

The despairing “Cold Bloom” continues from the howling and slow pace that the previous track left. There is so much feeling in those howls, and instrumentally, there is so much darkness. I can imagine a long walk through desolation and loneliness. It’s dark, depressing even, yet an undeniably inspiring journey.

I have enjoyed this album from beginning to end. Given all the symphonic and tech approaches a lot of Deathcore albums have been using this year, it was very brave and inspiring for The Acacia Strain to stay true to their style. I hope everyone else appreciates it.

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