ALBUM REVIEW – “Coma Witch” by The Acacia Strain

Basically every album from The Acacia Strain is a further thought out attempt to tell all of humanity how doomed they are. It’s their sound, their “niche” if you want to be so bold, and it works. After apparently figuring out that making an album long breakdown (Wormwood, a great album to be sure, but let’s get real, it was a giant breakdown) wasn’t a good direction to go in, TAS decided to up the technicality for 2012’s brilliant Death Is the Only Mortal. Now we come to Coma Witch, the band’s second outing on new home Rise Records and their first without long running guitarist Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz.  

Establishing your band as a constant stream of caustic hatred, believe it or not, creates a standard to hold oneself to. The Acacia Strain, and specifically their frontman and semi-self appointed mouthpiece Vincent Bennett, don’t so much as aim to for a specific point of creative success so much as attempt to smash it to bits. It’s crucial to remember that there is absolutely nothing happy, nice, positive, etc about TAS’s music, it is unfiltered anger and disdain, and that’s 100% the point. This sort of purity is the only reason the band gets away with what they do. There is no compromise, and the results are deadly.

The Acacia Strain have always managed to one up themselves, slowly but surely, over their 13 year career. One look at the Coma Witch tracklist reveals a 28 minute closing track, in itself an enormous red flag and a sign of things to come. Moving on to the actual music, a swift listen through the record reveals 2 things:

1. The production sucks

2. Ok so signing to Rise Records wasn’t actually a terrible idea

A possible third option is “oh they started the record with a monologue sample into a breakdown again”. Forget that moment of monotony, Coma Witch is yet another glorious addition to the TAS discography. The record is filled with all sorts of old TAS hallmarks, coupled with some brand new stretches of the band’s imaginations. It seems as of late that the group decided to thankfully bump their tempos, creating blistering songs like “Holy Walls of the Vatican” and “VVorld Demise”. TAS hasn’t forgotten how to pull off a crushing groove either, see the intro to “Nailgun”, it actually, dare it be said, catchy.

Of course the staple of the TAS sound still stands with their breakdowns, which somehow get even more doom drenched and oppressive this time around. There aren’t enough adjectives, there are only so many ways to call something “heavy” or “brutal”, so  instead just listen to the end breakdown of “Send Help”, and you’ll get an idea of what a truly focused band can conjure up.

Bennett steps up his game as well, spewing forth plenty of memorable one liners at seemingly all new levels of aggression, and obviously striving for a new personal standard with his rapid fire beginning verses of “Holy Walls”. Never mind the cliche and overwrought-pushing maladroit-vocal production, Bennett is unstoppable, bringing every fiber of his being to each syllable. The guest vocals too, from Max Cavalera, Sven de Caluwé, Brendan Garrone are each absolutely on point, clashing perfectly with the surrounding atmosphere.

The finale of Witch, the 28 minute “Observer”, is almost worth a 500 word review/analysis in of itself, seeing as it’s so immense and multidimensional that it can’t even be summarized obtusely. The song manages to transcend the band’s mission statement, itself based on the nihilist philosophy also almost worth a discussion for another review or interview, into something that is about probing through the workings of the human mind. At the forefront of the song are more monologue samples-including a chilling excerpt from True Detective-returning in force to accentuate and take the music to a whole new darker and introspective level.

The notions brought forward are all terrifying prospects, and TAS take 28 minutes to craft a thesis on their implications and results, winding through the usual straightforward sludge, and into sections that can actually be called quite beautiful. There is a second sample, a totally hopeless woman rambling and elaborating on former peace, that runs over a lovely soundscape of guitar. It’s a dichotomy of something insanely tranquil and disturbed and the song is only half over. This piece jumps right into yet another breakdown that goes right from oppressive to tragic, when the lead guitar pulls off a shrill tremolo line that sends the song right off a cliff. This is what The Acacia Strain have come to, new plains of diversity, and they go after their notions with impressive gusto.

“Surrender your last breath to the witch” Vincent Bennett screams. In the context of the song, it sounds like a plea, as if he’s begging for the surrender and the end of pain of another human being; but anyone who knows The Acacia Strain well is aware it is little more than a death sentence, a chant. It also goes well with the final cry of “bury me in nameless grave”, which wraps the Coma Witch experience in a desolate cocoon, sealing off another cold and merciless manifesto.


Max Robison

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