Hailing from Massachusetts, The Acacia Strain have been delivering their own brand of heavy music since forming in 2001. Continent is the band's fourth full-length album and will be their second release through Prosthetic Records.
Despite their previous releases, this album is my first exposure to the act that has been lumped under the metalcore and deathcore banners. Those banners may fit for some, but when I listen to them, I get touches of -core style, but I have to be honest and say that I am really not sure where I would classify them. However, while not genres, I think it is safe to say these guys are heavy and extreme. I like it.
The band name is rather interesting, although I could not find the reasoning for the choice. However, I did do a quick look see at what an acacia is, and found that it is genus of shrubberies. Hmmm, doesn't sound very metal to me. A little further reading revealed that it is also a symbol in Freemasonry, to represent purity and endurance of the soul, and as funerary symbolism signifying resurrection and immortality. Now that is a little better. Whether or not this holds any significance with the band, I do not know, but it does make the idea that a metal band is partially named after a shrubbery a little more palatable. If you know the truth behind the name, please enlighten me, I actually am interested for some strange reason.
As for the album, it is a skull crushingly heavy excursion into down-tuned metal. From the initial chord barrage of "Skynet" right through to the epic "The Behemoth," little time is taken to allow any catching of the breath. This is easily one of the heavier releases I have heard this year, but what makes it well worth your time is that there is more to it than just heaviness, unlike, say, the recent Carnifex album, The Diseased and the Poisoned, this is more than just blast beats and riffs made for the sake of being heavy. The Acacia Strain has put some thought into their songwriting with odd time signatures, clipped riffs, open notes, and just intriguing song progression. Yes, every song is heavy, but they are far from being boring and repetitive.
Continent is an album that may not leave a lasting impression on me, but it is an album that you can really get into when it is on. There guitar sound, which is the centerpiece of the act, is excellent. They tune way down and procced to deliver these riffs of utter destruction. You can practically see them on stage tearing it up with a sea of people surging in front of them, limbs and bodies flying in all directions. This is violent music that just begs for you to break something.
Daniel Laskiewicz is the man behind the thick guitar sound, which I understand is heavily multi-tracked in the studio (especially since the band's line up has dwindled from three guitarists down to one). He does some very nice work mixing it up while keeping the aggression in place. Backing him up are the drums of Kevin Boutot and solid bass work from Jack Strong, the newest addition to the band. Leading the charge into battle is Vincent Bennett, whose growled vocals actually stand out from the pack. The sound of the voice is generally one of the last things I consider, mainly due to so many sound alike growlers, but Bennett's is quite good. I may not know what he is saying most of the time, but he sounds good doing it.
When you press play, here are a few tracks to pay attention to: "Skynet," "Seaward," "Balboa Towers," "Kraken," and the album closing instrumental "The Behemoth."
Bottomline. This is a good album. It does not rank among my favorites, and I cannot say how often I will revisit it, but it is a cut above. The Acacia Strain put a lot of work into crafting these supremely heavy songs and their hard work shows. If you like heavy music, this is going to be for you.