Photo Gallery: The Acacia Strain / Escuela Grind / Year of the Knife / Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean @ Empire Underground, 05/20/2023
Watching The Acacia Strain perform at Empire Underground was one of the most intense shows that I’ve personally been to. What I enjoyed most about the night was the female presence on stage leading up to the headline act, and I left the show having discovered more bands to listen to on repeat.
The night opened strong with a set from Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean. Their music brought rhythm and beats perfect for headbanging in a slow rhythmic pounding that, with no context, would feel like impending doom. Watching the guitarists exaggerate their movements with the beat sold it. Their guitars would shoot straight up, and their head leaned backward, bringing their body into an arch, like the long wavering notes throughout their set.
Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean was the slow burn, and the next band, Year of the Knife, was an explosion. As soon as the band stepped on stage, they bursted into their first song, and the crowd went crazy. I was taken by surprise by how suddenly the pit came to life. Driving the pit was the lead singer, who never stopped moving. Their performance lit a match under the audience, who began to push against the stage as bodies collided in the pit.
The next band, Escuela Grind, brought complete mayhem. The lead singer made it clear that she did not wear her fancy pants for nothing, and the crowd made sure she was not left in vain. The pit’s energy grew, a death wall formed, and crowd surfing began. The band was in constant motion as the members constantly headbanging, jumping, and kicking as the crowd was threatening to spill onto the stage. The song to wrap up the set was a tune from the death metal band Hatebreed. The band’s guitarist were phenomenal, but the lead singer sold the band for me. The lead singer’s voice is phenomenal, and it’s mainly because of her that Escuela Grind earned a spot on my personal playlist.
Once The Acacia Strain took the stage, the crowd lost it. I can confidently say that I’ve seen a crowd hit this level at one other concert before. People ran across the stage only to jump back in and crowd surf. Some would linger to belt a few lyrics out with the lead singer before disappearing into the mass of people In front of the stage. At one point, the second death wall of the night formed, causing another wave of people to spill onto the stage. The band took it all in stride, emptying water bottles on the crowd to combat the heat that was building up and meeting the crowd with mirrored excitement. In true Empire Underground fashion, the singers from the other bands joined the Acacia Strain on stage to take turns with the microphone towards the end of the show and ended the night in a crescendo.