Dr. Acula – Dr. Acula Review

I hail from the Pacific Northwest and have never set foot in the Big Apple, so I know nothing about Long Island. So when the promo reads “Deathcore from Long Island!!” I don’t know what the hell that means. Is that good or bad? Is Long Island the prodigal son of New York? Is Long Island something you’d rather fugeddabaat? I don’t know, but Dr. Acula calls it home. If you had told me that ten years ago, I would have cringed and made a mental note to never visit Long Island.1 But now? I’m not so sure. This now-quartet offers its first album in a decade after disbanding in 2012, and it’s clear that time heals all wounds immaturity.

Dr. Acula used to cater a breakdown-heavy breed of deathcore in ode to 80’s movies, drinking, sex, and toilet humor, contemporaries including Attila, Skip the Foreplay, and The Holy Guile. While the deathcore is nonnegotiable, Dr. Acula is turning over a new leaf, stamping their name on eleven tracks of pummeling and bruising sans boyish charm. And all for the best: Dr. Acula is their best album, and it’s not even a fair fight. Featuring mathcore, hardcore, and thrash to boot alongside their trademark concussive breakdowns, solid performances across the board, and a tastefully concise runtime, Dr. Acula’s self-titled may not be the album of the year, but it is a crowning achievement for a band with nothing to lose and everything to prove.

It would be tempting to release an album of excess to ring in a comeback album, but Dr. Acula plays it smart. The modest and grindcore-inspired runtime of twenty-seven minutes never overstays its welcome, with only closers “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” and “The Barking Ghost” exceeding the two-and-a-half minute mark. While tracks like “The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena” and “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” build thrash, hardcore, and Converge-esque mathcore atop their deathcore foundation to make the most of their brief runtimes, the meathead beatdowns of “Apotheosis,” “Welcome to Dead House,” and “Stay Out of the Basement” are brief enough to make their impact without stagnating. The true highlight of Dr. Acula is the unhinged “How to Kill a Monster,” its deathgrind-inspired slides grilling into the brain with precision atop tasty grindy blasts. Dr. Acula also benefits from a crunchy production quality, giving the guitars enough fluidity without dwelling in basement-level djunz, while the punchy percussion injects furious energy.

Dr. Acula, in spite of finally righting the ship, feels late to the party. While we’ve seen the rise and fall of 2000’s deathcore mainstays like Suicide Silence and Chelsea Grin, the Long Islanders have long hovered below genre standards – thanks to their divisive humor. That being said, while their brevity is a huge selling point and they’ve built in just enough experimentation to make their self-titled to feel digestible without excessive, it feels as though Dr. Acula finally satisfies the basic deathcore standard. Doing away with the immaturity of their past has also arguably sacrificed their distinctiveness as well. On a track-by-track basis, the deathcore naysayers will find plenty to nitpick here, as tracks like “Welcome to Dead House” and “The Barking Ghost” feel repetitive and sloppy in comparison to the album’s highlights, while “Don’t Go to Sleep” is a suddenly trip-hop inspired interlude that feels woefully out of place.

Much of the extreme metal scene has moved on from deathcore at large, aside from symphonic and blackened variations, so Dr. Acula, alongside its Goosebumps-inspired track titles, has the potential to pluck nostalgic heartstrings. As such, brevity is the act’s biggest selling point in their comeback album. While it feels counterintuitive that a band’s best material lies in how little there is, the Long Islanders make the best of their self-titled without overstaying their welcome. The variety and nostalgia collide in a sweet spot, even if this breed of deathcore can feel like beating a dead horse. Riding the coattails of the era of breakdowns and gutturals with their own safe self-titled album, it’s nonetheless a roller coaster of concussions and tasty riffs if you have a proclivity for meathead pummeling. Judging Long Island by its formerly most obnoxious deathcore outfit, I cautiously condone a trip – although future stabbings, muggings, or deathcore regressions may prove me wrong.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Silent Pendulum Records
Website: facebook.com/Dr.AculaBAND
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. It’s pronounced STRONG Island! – Steel
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