Oh, the wasted potential. Sweet, sweet potential, flushed away like nothing. The Acacia Strain has been building a name by pummeling faces with their relentless breakdowns and searing guitar leads, appealing to the scuzzy kids you see at shows who have their hoodies up and can't wait to do a spinkick right into your innocent crotch. Except they found a way to stand out from the rest of the generic tripe in that genre and at least try a few new things. The Dead Walk was an unholy barrage of heaviness that exhausts you after one listen, and surprised the jaded hardcore listener in me.
But most of the bright spots in The Acacia Strain's attack have been dulled down on Continent, and if you're looking to place that blame in any direction, it should go right to guitarist Daniel Laskiewicz. This is not saying that he is a sub par guitarist, but it's pointing out the fact that this band once had three guitarists, then went to two, and are now at one. What made The Acacia Strain so memorable was that while one guitar was chugging, the other would be creeping over it with an eerie lead line, something hardly any other bands would attempt. And though that does happen a little on Continent, it's not nearly as effective or cool. You can't blame Laskiewicz for not writing parts such as these, since they wouldn't be pulled off live, but it does raise the question as to why they didn't just get a new second guitarist. The overall creativity that filled The Dead Walk is also less prevalent, although in songs like "Seaward," the magic returns for a few sections and brings the enjoyment back up.
The Acacia Strain's other star is vocalist Vincent Bennett, whose voice on The Dead Walk grabbed you by the throat and slammed you against the wall, thanks of course to the production, but also to his sometimes mushy but very forceful delivery. But even that seemingly unchangeable quality has managed to get compromised on Continent, which may be the most frustrating part of all this. Metal producer Zeuss for some reason makes Bennett less in your face, and more of a distorted buzz in the frequencies. But forgetting any producing oversights, Bennett's vocals are just not tolerable anymore. His voice sounds like my sink when it gets backed up, like a gross gurgle. It's not imposing, it's just kinda sick. And lyrically, you're in trouble when the first line of the album is "If you think like a whore, then you're a fucking whore." Oh, okay. Neat. There is apparently a concept running through these lyrics about a boy who destroys the world, but the only concept I noticed was that four of the song titles are references to the TV show Arrested Development, which is eight million times cooler than any abstract story found here.
The genre that The Acacia Strain operates in is stylistically very limited. Once you are the best at what you do, you can either keep doing it and be repetitive, or you can try to change it and not be as good. There isn't much breathing room when it comes to mosh-centered hardcore. So The Acacia Strain picked the latter option, and ended up with an album that does not live up to their potential. They don't even have as many breakdowns for those hoodie kids to windmill and pick up imaginary change to. So if those kids stop listening, who will even be left to care about this stuff?