Hardcore punk bands have generally been known for their aggressive sound and straightforward musical approach. Like most genres, hardcore has also experienced evolution throughout the course of its existence. Bands such as Black Flag and Minor Threat kick-started the movement in the early 1980s by playing punk rock at faster tempos, while later bands, such as Cro-Mags, revitalized the movement by adding heavy breakdowns and an overall “tough guy” attitude into the sound. The 1990s saw further expansion on the genre’s sound as bands began to adopt more of a “metallic” tone to their riffs. Essentially, hardcore experienced a linear progression as each wave of bands became increasingly more aggressive than the previous, and in the 2000’s the underground music world gave us The Acacia Strain, a band that completely reinvented the genre’s sound. At the time, no other hardcore act matched the aggression and sheer brutality of these east coast juggernauts, so let’s take some time to revisit their early years.
“…And Life Is Very Long” (2002)
The Acacia Strain’s debut is an odd affair. Not in a sense that it’s bad, but more in the fact that it sounds almost nothing like the rest of their discography. Many of the songs have death metal inspired guitar work, jazz style drumming, and melodic instrumental sections. It’s also interesting to note that Vincent Bennett utilized a more varied vocal approach at this time. Within each song it was common to hear him alternate between gutturals, high-pitched screams, and spoken word vocals. While their debut doesn’t exactly showcase the sound that people would eventually associate with The Acacia Strain, it’s still a very heavy album! “…And Life Is Very Long” is unique because it demonstrates a sort of frantic aggression that was never replicated again by the band. The whole album is a bizarre experience of time signature changes, breakdowns, and pinch harmonics, but it’s still worth checking out!
The second album by The Acacia Strain marked a pretty significant stylistic change. Most of the weird experimental aspects from their debut were absent on “3750”, and instead replaced by cohesive song structures and down-tuned riffing. And did I mention how heavy this album is? Seriously, it absolutely destroys everything in its path like a musical steamroller! Most of the tracks are mid to slow tempo and packed with thick guitarwork that alternates between traditional punk-styled chord progressions and sludgy breakdowns. Bennett began to predominately use his trademark guttural hardcore vocals on this album as well. In reality, this was the first Acacia Strain album that actually sounded like an Acacia Strain album. With that said, some of the characteristics of their debut appeared on this album, such as the Gothenburg riffs in “Brown Noise” and the ultra-melodic intro of “Smoke Ya Later”. In my opinion, “3750” is the heaviest hardcore album of the early 2000’s, and quite possibly one of the heaviest ever released.
“The Dead Walk” (2006)
I would consider “The Dead Walk” to be the quintessential album within The Acacia Strain’s discography. While not as heavy as its predecessor, “The Dead Walk” takes all of the best traits from their first two efforts, removes the filler, and executes each song with flawless precision. The Gothenburg riffs, melodic passages, and sound clips were all left out on this release and instead replaced with a constant barrage of metallic hardcore shredding. This album is so persistently aggressive that a complete spin through the disc is bound to leave the listener afflicted with whiplash. This was also the first album where Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz’s guitar tone reached that perfect combination of sounding eerily dark and super pissed-off (“See You Next Tuesday” exemplifies this). Vocally, Vincent Bennett performs with such ferocity and clarity that, for the first time in their discography, the listener can both hear and feel each disturbing lyric in these songs. And the lyrics are perhaps the greatest part of this album! On “The Dead Walk” Bennett found a unique way to express incredibly nihilistic themes in sort of a tongue-and-cheek way (just for fun, I’m going to post the lyrics that I found to be the most hilariously fucked up at the end of this article). “The Dead Walk” is such a good album and a perfect example of modern hardcore done the right way!
As promised, here are the most hilariously fucked up lyrics on The Acacia Strain’s “The Dead Walk” album.
“If I were you I’d pack my bags and get the fuck out of the Dodge.”
“I pray your broken family heals your broken neck. Eat shit and live.”
As If Set Afire
“The rocking chair stopped because she fell off and broke her neck.”
“I heard her, but I didn’t care. One less mouth to feed, one less complaint.”
Whoa! Shut It Down!
“Do the world a favor; pull your bottom lip over your face and swallow. I don’t mean any
disrespect, but I hope you are buried alive.”
See You Next Tuesday
“And you won’t be able to see me because you’ll be bleeding from the eyes. The
thought of your genitals makes me sick; I bet you could fit five cocks up that ass.”