The Acacia Strain - Continent (Cover Artwork)

The Acacia Strain

Continent (2008)


Over the past year, the sub-genre of metalcore that seems to have elevated itself to popularity is so-called "deathcore," an amalgamation of tough-guy hardcore and death metal influence that doesn't particularly appeal to fans of either genre. Instead, the fans (and musicians) are by-and-large kids that grew up with As I Lay Dying and Bleeding Through and who discovered Suffocation and At the Gates through the increased death metal presence in their music culture. The difference in the fans was enough to earn the new music its own name, being more unlistenable than most metalcore and considered amateurish by extreme music hipsters.

This distinction in fanbase is important to take into consideration when discussing a band such as the Acacia Strain. They are lumped into the "deathcore" label, when it really has little-to-no death metal influence, favoring breakdowns over blast beats and raging hardcore vocals in a Cookie Monster approach. The label is more indicative of the Acacia Strain's heavier, more caustic sound when compared to typical heavy music. It could also be argued that they are exempt from the label due to age, as the band formed in 2001 and has been playing basically the same type of music far before the term was coined.

This album is billed as a concept album about a man who leaves society and destroys mankind. However, the lyrics of the record are rather hit or miss on the concept front, with "Kraken," "The Combine," "Baby Buster" and "Balboa Towers" following the story closely, and "Dr. Doom," "Forget-Me-Now" and "Skynet" deviating from the design, addressing a car wreck, killing hookers and plagiarism, respectively. Unfortunately, "Forget-Me-Know" displays a level of misogyny that is pretty rampant throughout the album. This is rather hard to swallow, and I feel it is unnecessary to the feel of the album.

But really, I'm not listening to this for the lyrics. I'm listening to this record for the unparalleled aggression. Vocalist Vincent Bennett is frothing at the mouth in ways I haven't heard since Blood for Blood's Revenge on Society. Guitarist DL shows off abominable mosh riffs and effect-loaded distinctive guitar lines with equal proficiency. I hope the Acacia Strain get a touring guitarist, because they currently have only one axeman, and some of these little flourishes really make the songs. Kevin Boutot's drumming is flawless throughout the record, and I feel his skills are not being taken full advantage of by the band. I would also like to note that the off-time bass and drum intro to "Kraken" is really cool.

I guess maybe I'm just a sucker for heavy music, but I really dig this record. It is a tad generic, but I'm willing to look past that. This record is certainly not for everyone -- I will never make that claim. But if you haven't given up on all metalcore yet, you might want to check this out.