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CD Review: THE ACACIA STRAIN, Wormwood

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by James ZaluckyCD Review: THE ACACIA STRAIN, Wormwood

When it comes to THE ACACIA STRAIN, I usually enjoy their music live rather than on record. Vincent Bennett's brutalizing growls have a greater presence on stage than they do on stereo speakers, and the band's down-tuned approach to hardcore is simply made for the pit. That said, they make great records too, including fan favorites like 3750 and The Dead Walk. Lyrically, they preach unrelenting anger and absolute hatred of EVERYTHING. Fair enough. They have a satisfying sound which separates them from the massive wave of cliche' bands who copy them. However, on the new record, Wormwood, they've homogenized their approach a little too much through relying on a few elements of their sound. It's good for a band to be focused, so long as they don't make their sound too narrow.

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Generally speaking, the album sounds pretty solid. Considering his successes with THE RED CHORD and ARSIS, this should be expected from producer Chris "Zeuss" Harris. The album starts out with the punishingly heavy song, Beast, featuring guest vocals from HATEBREED's Jamey Jasta. A sludgy, crushing sound persists through the entire album, and in a way, the band has started to sound a lot like MESHUGGAH (lots of intense crunchy grooves and tinny-sounding guitars). This is especially evident on The Impaler and Unabomber. But a MESHUGGAH record usually contains memorable riffs,  whereas on Wormwood, the guitars seem to just emit a constant CHUG CHUG CHUG, without many riffs to keep you interested. The singer seems to be sticking exclusively to low-end guttural vocals, which sound good, but after three or four songs of this, I was hoping he would use some more mid-range and high-end vocals as well. A few songs simply sound like one big breakdown without an actual song around it, and the entire album almost comes off as a single song cut into 12 pieces. A friend of mine summarized it very well when I spoke to him saying that after a few songs, you want to say to the band, "alright I get the point".

As for the lyrics, more than the previous albums, they are unbelievably angry. The first song has the refrain, "We are not enemies but we cannot be friends", and The Impaler makes you remember that "We destroy the things that make the world go round, We are the reason there is blood on the ground" and such uplifting messages like "I hate everything you love" from Jonestown. It might be the most negative record I've ever heard, and that's not a bad thing, just something that makes you say: "Holy crap, someone must have really ticked them off!" I think it's good to hear a band musically declare, "Screw everything else, let's just get really, really, really angry". And I have to credit them on the lyrics to track 6, Nightman (featuring Bruce from 100 Demons), where they use the ending lines to T.S Eliot's classic, The Hollow Men: "This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper"

From what I've heard though, you're not supposed to take them completely serious. Some interview clips I've seen are pretty funny, and I definitely recommend checking out the "Acacia Strain studio update" videos, which are absolutely hysterical. In fact, I noticed a few Call of Duty: Modern Warfare references on this album as well. (Tactical Nuke)

The album is basically a burning swamp of crushing anger and sludgy grooves, which makes itself known easily enough, but more variation in guitar tone, tempo, and vocal style would have been really nice. The songs should be great to see performed live, along with the rest of the band's catalog. As cool as the record is, by its half-way point, I felt like listening to 3750 instead.

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To its credit: its baffling negativity, solidly brutal sound, and its hermetic atmosphere of crunch and chug, Wormwood earns a 6/10.

Favorite tracks: Beast, Terminated, Nightman, The Impaler, and Jonestown

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