by: The Acacia Strain

2008's Continent album finds the Acacia Strain pruned down from their original sextet lineup into a tidy foursome, and the diet hasn't necessarily drained them of their characteristic, blunt sonic force, but honed and compacted it into a dense and seemingly impervious deathcore wrecking ball, if you will. Problem is, you can usually see the wrecking ball coming from a mile away, since the group seems more addicted than ever to deliberate tempos, reigned back by tight-fisted riffs, and bowel-wrenching growls from vocalist Vincent Bennett which rarely fluctuate from their inexorable emotional flat-line. What few unexpected adornments are added to the music in time -- be they tenuous harmonies buzzing around cuts like "Forget-Me-Now" and "JFC," or speedier thrash riffs shaking up others like "Seaward" and "Cthulu" -- still wind up looking like mere pimples on a rhino: there's just too little variety to go 'round. If anything, endless grinds like "Skynet," "Balboa Towers," and "The Combine" sound like Crowbar for the hardcore set and seem tailor-made for herds of muscle-bound meatheads who like to patrol mosh pits just to intimidate slam-dancing kiddies. No fun. What's more, some of the breakdowns, wailing pinch-harmonics, and certainly the song "Dr. Doom" in its entirety, reveal a blatant compositional debt to Pantera that quickly becomes impossible to ignore. By the time the group unveils their largely abandoned melodic gifts on the closing anomaly, "The Behemoth," the damage has been done, and there's little chance of resuscitating the Acacia Strain's bruised and bludgeoned body from its comatose state. Maybe next time... ~ Eduardo Rivadavia

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