By now, most people know where they stand with The Acacia Strain: You either love the fun of a relatively simple and groovy downtuned assault, or you hate it. Aside from focusing the album around a central theme and some songs featuring slightly more progressive elements, “Continent” is pretty much what you should expect from the band.
The first song, “Skynet,” is a more experimental song for TAS; after a thick introduction riff that gets slower and slower, the song breaks into a more up tempo number with a fairly melodic chorus which closes with a typical TAS breakdown.
The second track, “The Seaward,” is perhaps the strongest song on the album, including mid tempo groovy riffing seen on earlier tracks like “Burnface” and “The Dead Walk,” a catchy two step section with the signature harmonics, and two crushing breakdowns. This track even features a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Meshuggah album (flashes TAS have shown occasionally in the past). “Dr. Doom” is another strong track that efficiently balances fast riffing, more breakdowns, and even a short solo.
After the three opening tracks, the album falls into a nice pace with a number of slow to mid tempo heavy tracks with no shortage of bass drops, tritones, breakdowns, and pinched harmonics. “Continent” is at its best when it centers these elements around groove and rhythm to create a song which is not just brutal, but also catchy. They have been doing this well since 3750, however now the band only has one guitarist (D.L.) with the departure of Daniel Daponde. Despite D.L. presumingly having to writing most of the music, there is still a good bit of variety on “Continent.”
The only point where the album starts to drag are with “JFC” and “Kraken,” songs that focus more on just chugging and being as heavy as possible, but lose sight of those elements of catchiness. The songs are not throwaways, but they do lack some of the energy of the songs preceding them. The album closes strong with the short but pounding “The Combine,” and the very interesting “The Behemoth,” which is very similar to “Halcyon” off of “3750″…a melodic instrumental that forces a 180 degree turn of mood and emotion onto the listener.
Vincent Bennett is in his prime on this album. He has all but ditched any high pitched screaming and raspiness and has switched to a very deep vocal delivery for the entirety of the disc. His lyrics are similar to those of “The Dead Walk,” mixing disdain for the human race with very black humor. “Continent” is a bit of a concept album, as now he has coupled his hatred for rampant promiscuity with the theme of destroying the world. There are plenty of great lines for the kids to shout at the shows about ending the world, killing everyone, etc. Jack Strong augments the low end well, and Kevin Boutot does a fine job behind the kit, putting in nice fills here and there.
Overall, “Continent” is exactly what you would expect/hope it to be. If you loved “The Dead Walk,” you will certainly love this. The Acacia Strain is the best band doing what they do, and they have turned out a number of very memorable songs. The album loses a little steam near the end, but overall is very well done.