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The Acacia Strain > Wormwood > Reviews > LedZeppelin2112
The Acacia Strain - Wormwood

Kind of simple but has its moments - 55%

LedZeppelin2112, February 11th, 2024

Seeing The Acacia Strain live as a supporting act for Dying Fetus a few months ago got me excited enough to check out their newest release. For a band I had never heard of before, absolutely killing it live with one of the most wild crowds I had been apart of with a truly devastating mosh pit, I was taken aback. These guys have infectious energy in person and keep the crowd engaged effortlessly, with absolutely massive breakdowns and thick, groovy rhythms.

Instead of going back and listening to any of their classic work though, I decided I’d check out the album that got them accepted into Metal Archives: Failure Will Follow, which was released in May, 2023 alongside Step into the Light which is a more traditional deathcore record. Failure Will Follow on the other hand is barely even a deathcore album, but instead a doom/sludge metal record with traces of the classic deathcore that they’re known for. If anything this heightened my expectations—Failure Will Follow expertly creates suspense and atmosphere and properly utilized breakdowns across a runtime over 38 minutes. So with hopes high, I finally delved into the classic material of The Acacia Strain, starting with fan favorite Wormwood. And I have to say, based on this album’s sound, I wouldn’t be surprised if Failure Will Follow is their best album.

Not that Wormwood is bad or anything, I’ve heard much worse deathcore. But with the very first song ‘Beast’ hitting my ears, I was instantly reminded of why I always proceed with caution in this controversial sub-genre. The immediate disappointment in the mid-paced, simple groove of the opening track was the equivalent of a slap in the face. It is relatively one dimensional and does not bother to deviate from its painfully simple formula. Vocalist Vincent Bennett is pretty generic sounding as well; his delivery is harsh by normal music standards, but hardly a death growl to me. It’s hoarse instead of guttural and lacks any real grit. So just from the opening track I was already checked out, thinking this would be a waste of time to listen to and that I’d better find a different album to try.

Yet for some reason, Wormwood’s quality immediately skyrocketed after this. Nothing out of this world, but ‘The Hill Have Eyes’ is just an immediate upgrade in every way. The musicians surrounding Bennett are finally displaying their individual skills, with much more interesting and complex (by comparison) compositions and drumming that doesn’t feel like a generic recording you could find on YouTube. The grooviness of the album is no longer lame and shortsighted like the first track, but incorporates more than just a singular element to keep rhythm, and keeps things interesting with tempo changes and actual layering to the instrumentation.

I know, the most simple characteristics of songwriting come into play and I’m praising the hell out of these guys for it, but I was genuinely that disappointed after the first track. Maybe it was meant to be a memorable opener due to its simplicity but it had me feeling completely betrayed. And then all of a sudden you get cool songs with legitimately exciting moments like ‘Terminated’, ‘The Impaler’, and ‘Bay of Pigs’, all of which feel like the band that I was moshing to in concert. Once past that initial shock of this simplified brand of deathcore, I was able to appreciate Wormwood for what it is. I should never have expected the technical complexity of Dying Fetus with whom I had seen them share the stage with, and instead focused on the angry grooves and head-bang worthy moments scattered throughout. I was even able to get used to, and sort of appreciate Bennett’s delivery for what it is. He’s not going to win any awards in my book but it does feel like he’s really in his element; his performance feels confident and assertive despite me not really being a fan of his style. Of course, that’s all subjective anyway.

I have to knock Wormwood for its runtime as well. 47 minutes isn’t very long of an album, but there isn’t enough deviation from the norm here and that is simply too long for me to listen to deathcore without wanting to turn something else on. I could happily enjoy about half of these songs, but then a lot of them just seem to blend together despite having some strong individual moments. It wasn’t so bad that I’d completely disregard this band in the future, because I want to keep an open mind on all kinds of metal music and I have friends who are way more into metalcore and deathcore and think that stuff like Dying Fetus is way past the line drawn for what is considered listenable music. But I have to express my disappointment; I was expecting more from my in-person experience and hope that there’s at least one legitimate gem in their discography outside of Failure Will Follow, which at this point is feeling very out of left field.