From loyal fans to haters, beefs with bands considered to be similar, and a naturally angered attitude toward the everyday world, The Acacia Strain have been bringing listeners heaviness for quite some time. The recent release, Wormwood, has been hyped for months by studio updates, comedic videos, and small teasers in order to keep fans on their toes. These videos were pretty extraordinary, seemingly scripted at many points, and also unique in the sense that front man Vincent Bennett is seen as the receiving end of many jokes- much different from his shredding of bands and just about everything else during live performances.
The meaning of the title “Wormwood” has been debated upon greatly by bloggers and forum users, but as Bennett describes in an interview with Muen Magazine, the title comes from a meteor in a short story written by Stephen King, which tells of a zombie apocalypse. He assures us that the title is not derived from the Biblical term, and that The Acacia Strain is not suddenly a Christian band. Certainly, the band has not taken a religious turn, and has not sacrificed any heavy aspects.
One great change listeners will notice from past albums is that the lyrical style has gone through much alteration. Also discussed in the aforementioned magazine, Bennett experimented with the use of rhyme. Now, this is not generally something to look down upon, but I find the rhyming to be overwhelming. In my opinion, it shows a lack of effort, was relied upon too heavily, and possibly shows him taking the easy way out. Lyrics are predictable, which takes away from the quality of the music. I expected much more from Bennett’s dark and creative mind.
Musically, there are slight changes from previous albums. The range in riffs has been diminished, and refined to mostly chugs, sludge, and low, bendy riffs. With only one guitarist, it wouldn’t have hurt to put a little more time into the riff writing process, although the majority were apparently written alone and then sent to other members by use of internet. Surprisingly, pinch harmonics seem to have been left behind, and I’m missing that cringing feeling when the rest of the band pauses. Where I would expect that feeling the most is in the track, “The Impaler.” There is an interesting sound in its place which seems to work well. Guest vocals fail to add much to the album, as they are lacking much range like Bennett’s, and quickly grow tiring. I had also been hoping for an instrumental track along the lines of “The Behemoth,” from Continent, but it wasn’t there.
For the time being, my favorite track from the album is “Ramirez.” The track starts out heavy and upbeat with a pick slide, some dive bombs, and a bit of interesting riffing, even tremolo picking in the first breakdown. There’s a subtle, dissonant lead riff played above the chorus that adds a nice touch. Later in the song, spoken lyrics of an ending world make you want to bury your head in the sand, followed by a phaser effected, “I DON’T GIVE A FUUUUCK” leading into a crushing breakdown that is heavy enough to make you want to punch your own mother in the face. This is The Acacia Strain at its finest, and my favorite part of the album.
On the whole, a few things may have changed from past releases, but this is still undeniably the same Acacia Strain you’ve come to love – or hate. If you couldn’t stand the band before, save yourself some time and let this one go by. But if you can handle the band, by all means, it’s worth the listen. I may have set my expectations for the album a little high, but I’m sure Bennett’s brainstorming some violent and hateful lyrics as I sit listening to this.