Album Review: THE ACACIA STRAIN It Comes In Waves
To subscribe or rebel against the idea of a god allows some illusion of control over your situation. The Acacia Strain strips away that illusion on the one-long-track album It Comes In Waves, posing the alternate theory that all gods and “otherworldly, infallible beings” throughout history were never here to help or harm. These “gods” were always the same group of inter-dimensional beings endlessly toying with humanity for their own amusement. Our only sin was giving them names, believing they would listen or even care.
The Acacia Strain is no stranger to horror-based, long-form songs. The closer of their 2014 album Coma Witch, "The Observer," clocked in at under 28 minutes and employed narrative and foley to drive the story forward. It Comes In Waves uses narrative sparingly to make a point, but mostly fleshes out its terror through its diverse music. "Our" breaks necks as it takes a hard turn from distorted choirs to full-speed death metal. "Names" crawls to the end with sludgy doom, occasionally picking its own broken body off the floor to quickly jog through something more uptempo before collapsing back into damaged delirium. Then there's "Only," whose subdued composition hypnotizes the listener before thrusting them into the vast nothingness of "Sin." Paired with the vocal dynamics of Vincent Bennett's black metal rasps, guttural slam growls, and Mike Scheidt-esque yelled cleans, The Acacia Strain sounds like a brand new band with limitless capabilities.
It Comes In Waves sounds massive, but never drenches itself in reverb to demonstrate the size of what you're dealing with. Clean guitars echo but are easily swallowed by the void. Drums and vocals take up the space they're supposed to with great separation while distorted guitars and bass meld together as one, yet there's always this ever-present darkness on the edges. As if The Acacia Strain is just beginning to understand the depth and dangers of the inter-dimensional beings, but haven't even come within miles of scratching the surface. As if the lights are purposefully off and the room is indeterminably colossal.
One of the most disturbing parts about It Comes In Waves, and one where narration is incredibly effective, is the speech given by Mother Carmody from the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist during the track “Was.”
Don't you know by now? Don't you know the truth? We are being punished. For what? For going against the will of God! For going against his forbidden rules of old! Walking on the moon! Yes! Yes! Or, or splitting his atoms! Amen! Or, or, or stem cells and abortions! And destroying the secrets of life that only God above has any right to! Amen! Amen!
Carmody’s speech is preceded by one discussing ripping a hole between dimensions (also from The Mist) and potentially having something take a look through the tear. Alongside the chorus of “Only the dead know” and verses like “Tears in the fabric / Lurking in the shadows / In the doorways of unreality / He says his name is Death / The truth is, he is something worse,” The Acacia Strain illustrates the absolute hopelessness you should feel. People might be entrenched in their beliefs, and some of them might be on to the truth while others are digging their heels into ideas formed entirely around only what can be explained against what's happening. But the bottom line is that whatever is out there is only giving us just enough information to recognize it, and it’s not even close to what’s really going on. The truth is, it's all so much worse.
It Comes In Waves is the record The Acacia Strain has been hinting at since Coma Witch. It's 30 minutes of doom, death metal, atmosphere, and storytelling that is hands down the best thing they've ever done. The experimentation with expanding their genre palette on It Comes In Waves is just enough to freshen up The Acacia Strain's sound, yet not so far gone that it's going to alienate fans of the past few records.
Listen to It Comes In Waves. Do not skip tracks. Take 30 minutes, put on your headphones, and enter the horrible existential nightmare laid out before you.