For nearly two decades, The Acacia Strain has established themselves as a fixture among the ranks of heavy music - regardless of genre. Fans of death metal, hardcore, thrash, doom, deathcore - they all seem to understand the language the band speaks and have gravitated to the band's brand of brash.
It's important to point out that the band's crossover ability is coupled with an especially prolific pace. One the eve of releasing their 10th studio full- length, Slow Decay, The Acacia Strain has released six of those records in the last decade alone. That doesn't include any mention of the band's EPs, splits, and singles.
While Massachusetts vets could easily rely on their legacy, crank out something to satiate fans, and maintain the status quo; The Acacia Strain is still keeping fans guessing after nearly 20 years. At the tail end of 2019, the band dropped a surprise record. Just a couple of months later, the band started a cryptic series of EP releases.
The culmination is the arrival of Slow Decay. Debuting publicly in the form of five individual EP releases spelling out, D-E-C-A-Y, the 12-track collection is crushing example of the band's commitment to defying expectation and collaborating with emerging artists. While heavy music can be riddled with cliches and the same stale formulas, The Acacia Strain swerve, stay fresh, produce a product that is never diluted with frequency.
The night before the release, the band's guitarist Devin Shidaker discussed the project and the headspace of the band.
The episodic approach to releasing music was smart. Is the Acacia Strain done with the traditional album cycle?
Shidaker - The underground music industry has changed so much in the last few years and I think at this point in time, it’s important to keep things interesting. We don’t ever want to be predictable and when it comes to releasing music there are no more road blocks with how we can present our music to listeners. I love a traditional album, but sometimes it’s hard to keep your fans’ attention when you build up to a single release date. When you build that hype, you build up expectations. When those expectations don’t match what you have created, a fan might be disappointed. Always keep people guessing and always try to keep things exciting.
Does the new approach to releasing music mean more frequent new material?
Shidaker - Honestly, we don’t know. At this point in time, we don’t even know when we be able to play these songs for people in a live setting and that’s something we HAVE to do. But with all of the down time from the pandemic, the creative juices are flowing and while we don’t have any new songs written, we have a lot of riffs. That usually doesn’t happen right after we release music, especially with how much music we have released since late last year.
Did the band face any opposition from the business side of things when it came to releasing music differently?
Shidaker - Thankfully we didn’t have much opposition at all. Rise Records has always understood and trusted our vision, so when we have an idea, they always do what they can to help. They have never tried to stifle us or tell us that something wouldn’t work. I think a few years back, that would be different, but traditional “first week” sales aren’t as important as they once were.
Mortality Rate, Left Behind, Spiritbox, Jesus Piece - this album does a service to a new generation of heavy bands. What was the criteria for the band in determining who to collaborate with?
Shidaker - One of the most important things about music to me is how much fun it is creating that. When we collaborate, we love to collaborate with our friends and with people we respect. I like to think that having guest parts like we do shows people that The Acacia Strain is a band that belongs to everyone. When we are playing a show, the microphone is as much anyone else’s as it is ours. Hopefully our friends singing on our music let’s our fans know that they are welcome to do the same when they come and see us. There are no rules.
Are things like category and genre going away? Acacia Strain resonates with metal fans and hardcore fans. That seems to be something that newer bands understand, putting out something that crosses boundaries.
Shidaker - I think that the idea of genre is bullshit. All of the best and most beloved bands have done whatever they wanted and not conformed to what genre they are expected to play. It all goes back to keeping things interesting. We might put out a doom record, we might put out a death metal record, who knows? Keep crossing boundaries and blurring lines and you open yourself to a much bigger fan base. You’ll give yourself the ability to grasp some longevity with your music and your creativity when you aren’t trying to rehash the same ideas over and over.
There was some discussion about celebrating the 10th anniversary of Wormwood. Has the pandemic nixed that?
Shidaker - Wormwood was a huge record for us and while we were planning on celebrating that in a very interesting way, that idea has only been postponed, not cancelled. We will have to play it by ear and see what happens, but hopefully we can get back on track sooner rather than later, as long as it’s safe to do so.
The title of this collection of EPs is Slow Decay. You find any irony in the title and the current climate of the world? Kinda feels like the band had a crystal ball.
Shidaker - We didn’t need a crystal ball. Anyone willing to really open their eyes can look around and see how fucked we are as a species. We exploit every resource our planet has, we treat our fellow humans like garbage, and we are leaving nothing but a future of famine and despair for younger generations. We did this to ourselves and it only makes sense that all of our horrible actions are starting to catch up to us.
Collaboration has been a big part of this release. Is there a wishlist of artists you guys would like to work with for future releases?
I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but personally I would love to work with these artists, in no particular order:Patrick Walker of 40 Watt Sun and Warning, Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates and Disfear, Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation, Julie Christmas, King Diamond, and Scott Kelly of Neurosis.
It’s going to be awhile before you guys get the chance to perform these tunes live. What about these tracks do you feel will allow them to age gracefully so when you finally can play them, they will still feel fresh?
Shidaker - When we wrote these songs, we had no idea that the world was going to shut down, but we did write a good chunk of them with the mindset of 'what would be fun to play live?' If we are having fun playing a song, I think the crowd can pick up on that and have fun too, so I think these ones will stand the test of time. We (hopefully) didn’t follow any tropes that will make these songs feel dated to 2020.
Slow Decay is available via Rise Records - HERE