The Acacia Strain / Thy Art Is Murder / Fit For An Autopsy - “The Depression Sessions”
Purchase through Nuclear Blast
Months ago, The Acacia Strain, Thy Art Is Murder, and Fit For An Autopsy began hinting at some sort of collaboration through their social media. It wasn’t clear what form it might take, but on the heels of the Coffin Dragger Tour, I thought we might be looking at another tour uniting three of the biggest names in deathcore, but the reveal of a split EP shortly after CJ McMahon’s departure from Thy Art Is Murder made The Depression Sessions infinitely more intriguing than another tour, no matter how much I was looking forward to that prospect. A couple of tracks were released ahead of time, but I was able to steer clear of them until I was able to listen in context. I suppose this was a little unnecessary since splits tend to be pretty fractious affairs anyway, but judging by the title of the split, I’d say there’s a pretty straightforward thread running through these these three original songs and three unlikely covers, creating all the context I need to justify my waiting.
The tone is set from the get-go by five of CJ’s last recorded minutes with Thy Art Is Murder, “They Will Know Another.” It continues in the vein of 2015’s Holy War, utilizing the band’s excellent grasp of dynamics to deliver another round of well-honed deathcore. Its first couple of minutes are a little more subdued and ominous than what we’re used to hearing from Thy Art, but their anthemic instincts kick in soon enough. “They Will Know Another” is a worthy cap to CJ’s time with one of modern deathcore’s elite, showing us just how deep the hole CJ leaves in Thy Art Is Murder goes.
For whatever reason, I find The Acacia Strain to be the odd ones out here. They’re veterans of the scene and have been refining their low-and-slow approach to deathcore for years before the term was coined, but to have their more hardcore-influenced style pop up in the midst of two of the scene’s more death metal-influenced peers is a little jarring. Whatever reservations I had are quickly put to rest as “Sensory Deprivation” sees The Acacia Strain stepping up their game, and even the tempo, to deliver a slab of chugging misanthropy that wipes the floor with almost anything off of Coma Witch. The breakdowns are a little uninspired, but the song does its part to sustain the melancholy of Thy Art’s opener and neatly segue into Fit For An Autopsy’s “Flatlining.”
Absolute Hope Absolute Hell was a major refinement of Hellbound’s jugular-exploding heaviness, and “Flatlining” is a major hint that whatever Fit For An Autopsy does next will do the same. They’re a relatively young act so they’re free of the burden of expectations The Acacia Strain has to contend with at their stage of their career and are fresh off a change of vocalists, too. As top-notch a vocalist as Nate Johnson was behind the mic, Joe Badolato is similar enough to adequately perform their back-catalogue but is also a more thoughtful lyricist and charismatic presence on recording. These things go hand-in-hand. “Flatlining” out-melancholies “They Will Know Another” and introduces an intriguing variation on their sound: while lighter yells cropped up on tracks like “Storm Drains” and “Ghosts In the River” off of Absolute Hope Absolute Hell, “Flatlining” shows us, about a minute in, that this technique is rapidly evolving into gruff cleans.
The second half of the split consists of out-of-genre covers, including Rammstein’s “Du Hast” (Thy Art Is Murder), Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” (The Acacia Strain, of all bands!), and Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug” (Fit For An Autopsy, another bizarre pick). This is where things get a little unorthodox, although it’s encouraging to see bands inside this inflexible subgenre trying out new things, like the prominent synth melody hanging over The Acacia Strain’s rendition of “Black Hole Sun,” even if it doesn’t work. Vincent Bennett has one of the most powerful voices in metal, although it seems a bit much for the track - yet the same overdone approach somehow really works for CJ on “Du Hast,” his devilish growl custom-made for roaring in German. Meanwhile, those cleans hinted at in “Flatlining” make a full-blown appearance for the second half of FFAA’s cover of Nine Inch Nails, transforming what starts out as a typical deathcore track into what will become a true novelty in their catalogue. It’s shocking just how closely they resemble Trent Reznor’s voice. I wouldn’t be opposed to hearing these cleans become a part of Badolato’s arsenal in the future.
All in all, while I wouldn’t call it essential listening, The Depression Sessions is worth checking out as a curio piece that collects odds and ends from some of deathcore’s most recognizable names in a single package. The original tracks are all stand-outs, and the covers, while not incredible, are weird and entertaining.