The Acacia Strain Step Into The Light
A band aging can be a tricky thing. While a good majority of the time this can come with the benefit of legacy and massive appreciation of older material, it’s a double-edged sword of sorts, where an artist finds themselves stuck between evolving their sound to reach new audiences and pleasing their longtime fans. This can end one of several different ways: with band releasing mostly forgettable placeholder records for the sake of a tour cycle, or they embark in a sonic change that may be so drastic and unevenly executed that it alienates loyal listeners in addition to not exactly impressing potential new fans. This certainly extends to hardcore and metal music, where bands can choose to go the route of consistently releasing what’s expected of them up to that point (Hatebreed, Slayer, Terror), or perhaps heading down the road of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks (Between The Buried And Me comes to mind.) Then you’ve got the rare band that hits their prime much later than you’d ever expect. It happened with the late Every Time I Die, and it’s happening again now with Massachusetts metalcore band The Acacia Strain with their new record Step Into The Light.
After pushing their brand of low end, chugging deathcore/metalcore to its limit through a string of releases that delved further and further into straight doom metal territory, in 2019 they threw a huge curveball with It Comes In Waves, an album that showed multiple never-seen sonic sides of the band, with shades of black metal, crust influenced hardcore and doom metal melded together in a 7 song concept-record that was meant to be taken in as one song. They followed up this surprising detour with Slow Decay, a more traditional release from the band that nonetheless pushed their menacing metallic hardcore sound to a more extreme place than ever before. It was faster, meaner and harder hitting than anything the band had released to date, not only delivering on the potential hinted at in earlier releases, but pushing well beyond that level, making for one of the most exciting metalcore releases of 2020. It’s a hard act to follow, but it seems they’re up to the ask, as Step Into The Light showcases an even more refined vision of the band’s newer sound with the heaviest and most sonically bludgeoning material they’ve released to date.
Standing at 10 songs with just around half of those falling under the two minute mark, there’s a surprising amount of brevity here that works extremely well coupled with the band’s newfound intensity and urgency. The triple knockout punches of opening tracks “Flourishing”, “Calf’s Blood” and “Chain” exemplify this, coming out the gate swinging with blistering hardcore punk sections that collide into crushing breakdowns and an unrelenting aural assault that comes in quick, hits ridiculously hard and is over before you can catch your breath. For a band that I’ve often felt had some great material in the past that maybe overstays it’s welcome a bit too long, it’s refreshing to see maximize their sonic impact here.
The longer songs on Step Into The Light certainly earn their runtime as well, with later album tracks “Sinkhole” and “None Of Us Asked To Be Here” feeling like the ultimate realization of their earlier material’s vision; a perfection of the mid paced deathcore from albums like 3750 and Wormwood that’s bleaker, more menacing and harder hitting than anything from their past. In general, Step Into The Light feels like the result of years of focus and refinement applied to the sharpest tools in the band’s arsenal, both familiar and yet far beyond anything previously released from the band.
In the spirit of pushing themselves to new levels, Step Into The Light is one of two records that The Acacia Strain are releasing in May. The other record, which I’ll refrain from going into too much detail regarding as it’s being reviewed for the site as well, is the 3-song release Failure Will Follow that dives full on into the doom metal leanings of the band, something they’ve only scratched the surface of in the past. While certainly you don’t need to listen to both records to enjoy either on their own, it’s telling of the band’s ambitions and vision that they’ve released these two records as a pair. Vocalist Vincent Bennett has gone on record as saying that TAS has finally become the band he’s always wanted them to be, and we’re certainly lucky to be along for that ride.
Bottom Line: Slow Decay was always going to be a hard record to top, but The Acacia Strain are also the rare band in this subgenre of extreme music that seem to be aging in reverse. Where many are content to rest on their legacy and laurels and churn out what they know will satisfy longtime fans, Step Into The Light pushes forward with the hardest-hitting material from the band yet, an engaging and explosive example of metallic hardcore in it’s most bleak and vicious form.
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timeless band, amazing album
I love cheese.
Zulu level good. I'll have to check it out.
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Let me tell you, back in my day down on the farm, we'd bind up bales of hay real close and tight together. You know, make sure the weevils don't get 'em. It's real important you never get weevils in your hay. After all, the cows eat the hay and what happens when you get cows eating weevils? Well, you get weevil milk there, son. And I think most people can agree that out of all the milks out there, milk made from weevils is definitely low on the totem pole of things you want to be consuming. It's bitter and any time you make cheese from it, it comes out flat. No, I'm not talking about some kind of musical note there. I'm talking about the actual cheese dimensions. Why, you always want to make sure your cheese has a nice mass, center of gravity but has that natural texture to it. Heck, pretty soon, you'll be able to get cheese as smooth as a slab of sheet metal but me? Why, us good old southern boys prefer our cheese the way we do our women - with a fine curvature and built like a brick.