Sound — 8
Like plenty of other bands, The Acacia Strain hasn't been immune from the revolving-door syndrome. Originally the deathcore band featured 3 guitarists, but it has been whittled down to just Daniel DL Laskiewicz taking on all of the shredding duties. One might assume that would take away from the wall of sound, but thanks to layer upon layer of recorded guitar tracks, The Acacia Strain's new album Continent doesn't disappoint. Along with the double-bass pedal madness of Kevin Boutot, Laskiewicz's guitar parts jump to the forefront of the album. If you're not familiar with The Acacia Strain, be prepared for the wonderful Cookie Monster-like vocals of Vincent Bennett. He does tend to stay in the same place for much of the record vocally speaking, but he does deliver what can only be described as a sonic scream during the intro of the first track Skynet. After the dramatic intro, Boutot lays into his drum set with fury and the rest of the band follows suit. A solid ending is aided by Bennett offering up some truly diabolical-sounding roars that feel straight out of The Exorcist. Continent rarely lets up in it's intensity, so it's nice to hear interspersed guitar nuances that break up the monotony of the aggression. Seaward has a very creative bit where you think Laskiewicz is going to lay into a held-out pinch harmonic in the style of Zakk Wylde, but he cuts it off short to create a peep, for lack of a better word. Dr. Doom is another highlight with it's fantastic groove-oriented chorus that transitions to the verse with rapid-fire drum beats. There are solos included in many songs, but it's actually the random guitar lines that tend to be the most unique. There have been interviews where the band has stated that Continent is The Acacia Strain's darkest effort yet, and in some ways that is accurate. It's definitely the most aggressive album yet and it rarely lets up on it's intensity. The closing instrumental track The Behemoth is dark in it's own right, but it takes a very different approach. It starts out with a hushed quality and cleaner guitar effects, with the track building layer upon layer. It never explodes in the same way as the other tracks, but that's the refreshing aspect of it all. The band showed restraint and it just gives a cool feel to the last track. Had they tried something like this instrumental earlier on in the album it may have dragged things down, but it works perfectly as the closer.
Lyrics — 8
In an interview with VH1 back in June, vocalist and main lyricist Bennett explained, For this record, I basically exiled myself from everything just to write the lyrics. It's definitely evident that he put plenty of focus into the grim, but highly original lyrics on Continent. At times they seem downright anti-female, but Bennett apparently wrote from the perspective of an individual who does a great deal of harm to humanity in general. If you want a raw taste of Continent, check out Baby Buster, in which Bennett sings, I don't sing f--king love songs because there's nothing in this world for me to love; I want the world to have my rape baby; So when it's born I can strangle it to death. There are some seriously twisted lyrics on the album, and they should definitely make a thought-provoking conversation piece. It's hard not be offended by some of what's being sung, but at the same time you know that Bennett has purposely penned lyrics that will make us all squirm a little.
Overall Impression — 8
Even with a pared-down crew, The Acacia Strain continues to produce a frighteningly effective wall of sound. The best moments come when you can hear some of the more intricate parts being played -- whether by the guitarist, drummer, or bassist -- and it gives Continent more of a unique identity. Bennett's vocals will still be hard for some to swallow, but he certainly hasn't thrown together just a bunch of random, run-of-the-mill lyrics. The Continent is brutal musically and lyrically, and The Acacia Strain has raised the bar in that sense.