Pure. Unbarred. Hatred. That’s The Acacia Strain’s new album Death Is the Only Mortal in three words. Ten-ton heavy breakdowns at a doom metal pace coupled with Vincent Bennett’s intense singing makes for an exciting album. That being said, this album is essentially a breakdown fest. With any other band that would be a complaint, but in this case it’s a definite win. Most people were expecting a Wormwood pt. 2 since that album got insanely positive reviews and is hailed as an instant classic, but instead of sticking to that same formula, they’ve turned to an eerie and ominous sound that sounds amazing on recording. I would imagine it sounds even better live.
While Mortal shares a lot more similarities with Wormwood compared to any of their other albums, there are a few differences. Starting off with a somber and evil intro in “Doomblade,” The Acacia boys get straight to business by delivering immense and in-your-face riffs. I love their experimentation with the haunting, atmospheric elements that they utilize on this track and most of the album as well. It provides for a whole new aspect and chapter of the band’s sound.
They continue along this trudging path with “Go to Sleep.” While I really dig the breakdowns, they also severely limit the track in terms of any progression to speak of. “Brain Death” at least gets a little more inventive with the bass/guitars and drum trading off with each other. These tracks are still cool because not many bands will actually write in this formula and pull it off with such finesse like The Acacia Strain do.
There are bands that try to adopt an apocalyptic sound into their albums, but none have been able to capture it as effectively as on this album. Using elements that emphasize imminent destruction is the biggest strength of this album. They keep that sound solid and the eerie elements give a foreshadowing sense of an end of times, as shown on the two songs “The Mouth of the River” and “Dust and the Helix.” This is also where the album starts picking up the tempo, though it’s not by “Ramirez” means. They continue to maintain the same type of groove that the entire album has while showing the first signs of the chaos that the prior tracks were hinting at.
Saving the best for last, “Time and Death and God” is a heavy and largely atmospheric wall of sound a’la 7 Horns 7 Eyes. It starts with a heavy fest of doom-y riffs that bleed off effortlessly into a full-on soundsphere that creates that oh-so-familiar sense of something about to go down in the house of Acacia. Indeed it does, as it comes around full circle to the beginning, but with much more force. To leave a little bit of room, it all comes down to “The Chambered Nautilus.”
While this album derives a lot of influence from their previous album Wormwood, it severely lacks the same amount of momentum that Wormwood was known for. There are virtually no sped up parts in the album, which saddens me. Nonetheless, Death Is the Only Mortal is a great album and it is my pleasure to say that The Acacia Strain did not get Rise-ified.