Review Summary: Brutality, but not yet banality.
The Acacia Strain’s career has been a perplexing one to say the least. As one of the early bands to join the deathcore wave of the early 2000’s, they were also one of the first to feel the wave of hate emanating from metal fans. The Acacia Strain were always on the simple side of deathcore, and as time and albums went by they seemed drop the few actual death metal influences they had. They don’t use blast beats, technical riffing, or tremolo picking. Their only real link to deathcore is the prominent use of breakdowns and an extremely bottom heavy sound, not to mention vocalist Vincent Bennet’s guttural roars and screams. The sound is one more trudging than blistering, encompassing massive down tuned and drawn out riffs meant to sound as heavy as possible. In fact, it is easy to look to the band as the influence behind the emerging wave of downtempo deathcore (Black Tongue, Traitors) currently. The Acacia Strain has made a career out of that style, doing it better than any of this new wave have managed so far. Coma Witch
is virtually more of the same, in some ways better while in other ways worse, but ending with a big surprise.
The best way to think of this album is as one with two separate parts. The first part is almost interchangeable with The Acacia Strain’s last few records, opening with “Human Disaster” which in turn begins with an tense male voice sample that leads into a massive breakdown. It’s just The Acacia Strain doing what they've always done well. It’s heavy and somehow it keeps your attention like no other band attempting the style. Like Death Is The Only Mortal
, there is a touch of djent esque compression and sharpness in the guitar tone. The riffs, a term I use loosely, are confined to the low strings with a bare handful of tension inducing yet simplistic guitar leads sprinkled in. The bass is, as you could guess, nonexistent except in solidifying the bottom end. The drum work is surprisingly the most technical instrument on display, not the usual wow factor for the band, with some nice fills and nifty patterns spread through Coma Witch
. Songs like “Cauterizer” turn out to be the most fun tracks, with severely punishing drops and creepy buildups. A handful of guest vocalists liven up other songs, such as Sven de Calwe (Aborted) on “Graveyard Shift”, and Brendan Garrone (Incendiary) on “VVorld Demise”. Sadly, there are a number of forgettable tracks, fun at the time but nothing to really remember. Bennet’s vocals are attention grabbing and as angry as any vocalist I’ve ever heard, but his lyrics are not exactly poetic. They work for the band, with their nihilistic and violent imagery, but nothing really praise worthy. In “Cauterizer” they work, but in songs like “Holy Walls Of The Vatican” not so much, with lines like "Hallelujah, you won't be saved".
Now, the second part of the record, in truth, is just the final track “Observer”, where things take a turn for the surprising and interesting. The first thing noticeable is that it lasts for an overtly gigantic 27 minutes, nearly as long as the first ten tracks combined. It’s definitely a tentative listen at first, but it works in all the right ways. It has all the things The Acacia Strain is known for and a whole lot more. There are voice samples, notably a monologue from the TV show True Detective, doomy down tuned guitars, ambience in abundance, dare I say even beautiful moments, and then a final drop at the end. Most importantly, it fills in the blanks created by the first half of Coma Witch
While Coma Witch
isn’t the definitive Acacia release, it is a worthy one nonetheless. This can most certainly be called a triumph if not of epic proportions. If you feel the need for some slow, heavy, evil music this might be for you.