Album review: The Acacia Strain – Gravebloom

After a massive amount of line-up changes, only one member, vocalist Vincent Bennett remains of the original band, but after such internal turmoil, the band has remained remarkably constant. Does the new album, Gravebloom reflect this?

If you’re at all familiar with the band’s previous work, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the get-go. Worthless delivers relentless, powerful double bass drum rumbles away under a thundering attack of three guitars delivering a a discordant mix of harmonics and strummed rhythm whilst the vocals have a mix of shouting and screaming (they’re different, I promise) and even some creepy spoken word samples relating to a bereavement in case it wasn’t evident already, this is far from easy-listening.

Moving ever so slightly on from the more doom metal intro of Worthless, we are greeted by Plague Doctor. Taking what feels like direct influence from Sepultura, the band delivers a death-metal (again death and doom are different like screaming and shouting) assault loaded with a relentless guitar rhythm, constant combative drums and rage-filled vocals. Bitter Pill comes pounding directly afterwards, and takes us even deeper into the anger, with ‘piq squeal’ growling dragging you down into the depths of the metal vocal register, the song takes you further and further down until the very end, where the only remaining pulse left, is that of the double bass drum beating away. Whilst Big Sleep, which begins straight after the end of Bitter Pill, may start off with more speed, pulling you out of the sluggish mire of the end of the former song. It does, frustratingly, go in much of the same direction and you can feel yourself wanting something that’s a little different.

Gravebloom is the eighth studio album by American metalcore band The Acacia Strain.

Gravebloom, the title track, and Model Citizen deliver just the tonic for this. Whilst both still retain much the same set of elements that form this brutal sub-genre (is it Metalcore, is it death metal, who’s too sure at this point?) such as guitars tuned so savagely low, they may as well be strung with telegraph wires and using their frequencies to trigger cave-ins and avalanches; both songs are also rhythmically more complex and if you’re not totally adverse to this genre of music in the first place will likely have you trying to form a mosh pit with your furniture. This reviewer advises you not to form a wall of death with your actual wall though – you’ll lose.

Abyssal Depths may give you the impression at the beginning that you are due a reprieve from the unstoppable assault of an album, but you’d be very wrong, and liable to jump as the song ‘drops’. Straight into a wailing guitar layered over growling vocals and a bass and drum duet that sound as though both, not just one are the percussion of the piece.

Calloused Mouth, Dark Harvest and Walled City are possibly badly placed next to one another as tracks go, simply due to their similarity. You’d be hard-pushed to comfortably tell them apart without prompting. Not that this makes any of them bad songs, they’re both worthy death-metal anthems, it’s just a shame that there’s not huge amounts to distinguish the two of them except a few guitar ‘melody’ alterations.

If by the end of the album, you’ve managed to retain some energy, and there’s no judgement here if you haven’t, the final epic-length monster that is Cold Gloom, will drag you kicking and screaming away from the album. At nine minutes long it’s a bit of a behemoth by any genre’s standard but for what is effectively three songs worth of pure rage rolled into one, it’s a challenge. That said, persevere with it, and The Acacia Strain will lay you down to rest as best they can, particularly in the last minute.

The album is good, there’s no two ways about it. For a band of this genre to hit the Billboard Top 40 (usually reserved for today’s pop) you know their pedigree is impressive, and you’d never expect them to reinvent the wheel that got them to that standard. The work still feels fresh however with distinction from previous albums and Gravebloom is worth tackling, if you dare.





Author: Steve, Southgate store