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THE ACACIA STRAIN Gravebloom

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, July 24, 2017 @ 11:10 AM


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THE ACACIA STRAIN
Gravebloom

Rise Records




Low and slow is usually part of any recipe for good barbecue. It's been pretty much the entire recipe for the brutish metal of Chicopee, Mass-holes THE ACACIA STRAIN for more than 15 years. And the band certainly doesn’t seem interested in tinkering with the tried and true at this stage of the game.

The monumental closing track “Cold Gloom” pretty much sums up the flavor of the quartet's eighth album Gravebloom, as it stretches out the slog-and-slam bluster for more than nine oppressive minutes. It is, however, one song here that offers some genuine atmosphere thanks to shimmering guitar flourishes from Devin Shidaker, ex of the equally bruising OCEANO. Most of the rest of the album, though, is a combination of deliberate brute force, brown sound heaviosity and foul mood. The usual menu, as it were.

Not that that's necessarily a problem. THE ACACIA STRAIN has become one of extreme metal/deathcore's most dependably punishing bands. If you're looking for a pure sonic beatdown, these guys are more than happy to oblige – and Gravebloom certainly delivers. Shidaker's haymaker riffs, tuned achingly low, absolutely crush and the lurch-and-heave rhythms of new bassist Griffin Landa and longtime-drummer Kevin Boutout give him ample opportunity to keep pounding away. Founding frontman and lone original member Vincent Bennett is as bellicose as ever, offering such niceties as “Bitter Pill"'s “I am the butcher/Everything I see I kill/You have no immediate future/Swallow sorrow's bitter pill” with his signature ursine roar.

But if you'd like a little nuance, or at least a bit of a break from the incessant battering, I'm afraid you'll find those moments fleeting here, at best. Shidaker's shrill guitar asides emerge from time to time prior to “Cold Gloom” - most notably on the opening track “Worthless” and the comparatively catchy “Model Citizen” - and the sparse, moody intro/outro to “Abyssal Depths” is effectively haunting. Otherwise, THE ACACIA STRAIN revels in sheer brutality. Period.

Bennett's sociopathic rantings provide the perfect foundation for the band to build on in that regard. His hatred and appetite for suffering seemingly know no end, and his lyrics are as vivid as they are terrifying – especially when the vehemence of his delivery is factored in.

Take, for instance, the title track: “Dead in the dirt/I hope the dying took forever, I hope it fucking hurt/I drove an arrow through your heart/A lit your coffin aflame to make sure you were really gone.” Holy shit! It doesn't get much colder than that. And though he admits “My brain is fucking rotting” in “Calloused Mouth”, that's pretty self-evident throughout.

Gravebloom is chilling work, to say the least. But its unrelenting nihilism and rage can be tough to digest, especially given that it’s yet another heaping helping of what Bennett has been doling out since 2002. And while the soundtrack underneath certainly drives the message home with bludgeoning authority, the one-dimensionality of it all can leave an unpleasant aftertaste that tends to linger.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

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