For fifteen years The Acacia Strain have used brown noise breakdowns and violent lyrical images to win fans worldwide. Whether it’s viewed as dumb narcissism or tailor made nihilism, the music has been used as a weapon to destroy venues and listeners auditory health. Any consumer of extreme music who is aware of this band should be able to tell their sound apart from the droves of down tempo and beatdown acts that infest music today. But with a constant record-tour-record cycle that has seen them shed virtually all of their original members along the way, can they continue to impress at the same level? Do they wind their collective neck in and continue to please the fans or is their room for any form of evolution in their sound? Does anyone still want to hear this anyway? Gravebloom answers all three of these questions. It has The Acacia Strain at their most destructive, venom spitting best, taking cues from the colossal closing act of 2014’s Coma Witch and toying with a sound rooted in doom and gloom; making damn sure that people will pay attention to the world’s angriest band again.
Unlike several bands that have aged with them, The Acacia Strain have never strayed far from their original blueprint. There’s not one album in their discography that seems out of the ordinary and the level of aggression and hostility that the band deliver hasn’t waned either. Gravebloom has pit opening anthems and demolition inspiring bangers, as is expected from a band that so famously deals in angry, angry music. The churning motions of Continent see the light of day again in tracks like “Bitter Pill” and “Calloused Mouth”; tempo changes, two step slams and concrete-wall-meets-face beatdowns that come out of nowhere made that record so dynamic and those feels are back. The multi layered guitar attack is front and centre again, thankfully. Air raid siren string bends and riffs under riffs make for a far richer sound, leaving every other core band in this record’s dust, chugging along with two guitars playing the same dull riffs. Opener “Worthless” — which is by far the best opening track in a decade — is immersed in guitar and bass interplay, never too busy to be distracting but thick with dirty picked chords under stuttering, vicious stabs. Coma Witch brought this attack back after a few albums where it was left out to dry, but that’s not all that Gravebloom has taken from that record and built upon.
There was little doubt about the most surprising, and most entertaining part about Coma Witch. The half hour doomcore (let’s roll with that for now) behemoth “The Observer” saw the band slow things down to a level previously unheard. The injection of soundbites, clean picked guitars and gloom heavy riffs sounded off like a ‘core version of a David Lynch soundtrack. Gravebloom picks the ball up from the closing moments of this track and is instead molded throughout the record. The closer this time around feels more like a traditional Acacia song, but at nine minutes still drags the waters and uncovers a band that have pinpointed something new. The Acacia Strain have always sounded unique among their peers, simply because their violent nature has always been so immediate. They now have a new focus. “Abyssal Depths”, as well as the opening and closing tracks break things down without actually using breakdowns as a crutch. This many records into a career filled with pit destroying material and they have managed to divert some of these energies into a darker, more sordid direction. It’s still definitely The Acacia Strain — a new model though, capable of things most wouldn’t have expected.
The band’s choice in continuing to work with Will Putney gives Gravebloom another elbow above the crowd. Coma Witch sounded huge. This one sounds even bigger and even richer. The layering of guitar and vocal tracks is lavish without ever being overpowering. This applies to both the atypical Acacia riffs and spills and the new, dare I say, ambient works on this record. This is easily their most clinically produced record. This level of professionalism marries with the band’s steps forward into new territory and is but one of the reasons why people who forgot about The Acacia Strain will be made to pay attention again; Vincent Bennett’s lyrics take a step in the right direction too, foregoing the violent sexual imagery of old, instead forming the most hateful of games of violent, nihilistic bingo around – “serve no purpose”, “step on your throat,” “no immediate future” BINGO!
Shitty jokes aside, The Acacia Strain have used the impetus from their previous record and blown back with an even bigger, even more bullish display of the signature violence that is to be expected from them. Gravebloom sees the band sounding great and not just showing up — for the first time in a while, it has to be said. A lot of people have a huge soft spot for this band because of the violence and the sheer brazenness of it all. That soft spot should be well and truly filled with the doom’n’gloom destruction of this fresh tailored sound. Yeah, it’s brash and unforgiving, but it’s 100% necessary in a time when a lot of metal is going the way of frat boy, “homie” hangout core. Put them all in the path of this band and watch The Acacia Strain hit a major feeding frenzy. There will be blood, and yes, it will be lit.
Gravebloom is available 6/30 via Rise Records and can be pre-ordered here.