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The Acacia Strain: Wormwood

By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal

Release Date: July 20th, 2010
Record Label: Prosthetic

My rating points:

    Track Listing:
  1. Beast (4:04)
  2. The Hills Have Eyes (4:21)
  3. BTM FDR (3:51)
  4. Ramirez (2:26)
  5. Terminated (3:14)
  6. Nightman (2:52)
  7. The Impaler (4:35)
  8. Jonestown (3:18)
  9. Bay of Pigs (5:18)
  10. The Carpathian (3:18)
  11. Unabomber (4:48)
  12. Tactical Nuke (5:34)

Massachusetts metallers The Acacia Strain are back with their fifth studio album within a 9 year period, a prolific run by any standards. I'd call them just 'death metal' and not 'deathcore' as they are usually categorized under. Aside from the fact that the band themselves hate that label, all these 'core' sub-genres are getting rather ridiculous. I hope for simpler times when we don't have a million categories of what in the end could be described by one word we love the most, 'metal'.

Although the band was on the road for the 'Continent' album, it wasn't an extensive touring period by any means. They deliberately took time off from the road to focus on this particular effort, and I was very interested in finding out whether they did justice to it.

The opening track 'Beast' gives the album a slow yet heavy start. Neither the vocals nor the music is overly committed or forced here and it's more like a taster for things to come. It gives us a glimpse of some of the elements they've incorporated into the rest of the album, from growling vocals to muddy riffs to melodic guitar fills. 'The Hills Have Eyes' offers a whole lot more to the listener. Thrash metal style drumming and alternate picking thrown in with slow, low death metal segments along with progressive, technical passages. Calling this song diverse would be an understatement. This is the kind of track that would make you go, "Hell yeah!! This is awesome. Money well spent."

'BTM FDR' has a very unique, atmospheric feel to it for the most part while the vocals ensure that it keeps up with the aggressiveness of the other songs. While listening to this, I can't help but imagine that this would go very well as a background score for a dark, haunting movie scene. 'Ramirez' is the shortest song on the album but despite that, it has enough variation within itself to give a 10-minute progressive tune a run for its money. This could be the perfect Acacia Strain live song in the near future. It packs an incredible amount of punch. 'Terminated' is really the first song listening to which you'd feel that it doesn't offer anything new or different from the ones before it. Having said that, it's a solid tune in itself. The guitar riffs give it darkness while the fierce vocals and pounding double bass drums make it as heavy as any other track.

'Nightman' continues along a very similar vein while picking up the tempo from the previous song to an extent and for the first time you hear a range of vocals rather than just the low-end growls. On the contrary, 'The Impaler' doesn't leave much of an impact but then again, it's not a bad song, it's just that it might well get lost among the better songs on the album. 'Jonestown' comes close to being the best song on the entire effort. The main guitar riff truly stands out whereas the other elements compliment it perfectly. It is aptly clocked at 3 minutes and 18 seconds. Any shorter would have left the listener unsatisfied and any longer would have killed its impact.

'Bay Of Pigs' shows great depth to start with, but drags on a bit after that. For a 5-minute song, there really isn't much going on. Other songs here that are half its duration sound way more diverse. The compositions and arrangements on 'The Carpathian' are much better. A very solid track overall, this one proves what guitarist DL is capable of, as he puts together a plethora of variations ranging from wah-driven to melodic to distorted, none of them sounding forced. The thing that stands out about 'Unabomber' is that it has a very dark and haunting aura to it, probably more than any other track. 'Tactical Nuke' is a very weird ending to the album, as it's an instrumental track laden with the sound of a guitar that's tuned lower than on any of the previous 11 tracks.

I would recommend the tracks 'The Hills Have Eyes', 'BTM FDR', 'Ramirez', 'Jonestown' and 'The Carpathian' as the better tracks here while 'Beast', 'Terminated', 'Nightman' and 'Unabomber' are more than decent songs that you would dig. Lyric-wise, Vincent has written his most personal lyrics ever, and some people might well be able to relate to them.

The Acacia Strain have come up with the heaviest, most polished effort of their short, prolific career. The band stated in the lead-up to this album that every track has it's own dynamic and no two songs are similar. I wouldn't say they completely succeeded in that endeavour, but it's true for the most part. On the whole, it's dark and heavy while being mystical and haunting at times. If I have to put a label on it, I would suggest fans of death metal and technical death metal to go out, buy this record and savor 47 and a half minutes of brilliant, crushing musicianship.

To buy the CD and for more information, check out their official myspace.

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