Ostensibly genreless Chicopee demolishers in The Acacia Strain has been on the warpath since 2001, consistently releasing music that front man Vincent Bennet insists isn’t deathcore, a label which has, as recent internet history dictates, become one to avoid. Indeed, in a world of 7 billion people, originality is hard to come by. This being TAS’ (un)lucky seventh studio release, they’ve shown that there’s more than one way to skin a human alive, persevering after the loss of faithful six-string executioner DL Laskiewicz. With a title and cover art that could very well belong on a sludge/doom metal album, though following with the recent theme of morbid birds, it was hard to predict how the band could follow up the impossibly heavy Death is the Only Mortal, a veritable feast of down-tuned, low tempo aggression at its meanest. With Coma Witch, we’re still in dangerously heavy territory, and, as proven by a track record of inventive metal/hardcore bruising, there’s some actual music churning ‘neath the chugs.
When one thinks of The Acacia Strain, it’s hard not to immediately recall their famous, though thankfully terminated, beef with Emmure over who came up with drop-B misogyny first. If anything, this has taken away from a truly objective look at the band’s music, which is miles beyond what Emmure and their cuckold fascination can be worth. It doesn’t matter who made it up; TAS is doing it consistently better. They’re essentially regarded as hardcore’s answer to polyrhythm polymaths in Sweden’s Meshuggah, and Coma Witch does little to quiet this discussion. ‘Send Help’, much like ‘Woah! Shut it Down’ from The Dead Walk, opens with a killer off-kilter groove, accented by eerie leads, a technique that the band seems to be experimenting with more than ever. Continent and Wormwood were a successful welding of beatdown brutality and enough melody to taste, so it was a good move on their part to pursue this direction. ‘Holy Walls of the Vatican’, one of the overall fastest psalms, even shows Vincent Bennett channeling the bark of Travis of Cattle Decapitation alongside his usual roar.
While the mainly exploring TAS’ versatility, it’s easy to hear the callbacks to previous works; the aforementioned ‘Send Help’, and ‘VVorld Demise’ (feat. Brendan of Incendiary) bringing in a leitmotif of sorts by altering the tempo and pitch of the chorus from Continent’s ‘Skynet’, to pleasing results. The lyrics, if you’ve listened to any other release by TAS (seriously, pick one) haven’t changed much; Vincent still hates everyone and wants them to all to suffer. Any of their lines could go on the back of a shirt as a quote, really. The use of bone-chilling, nihilistic and murderous samples is still effective as it always has been in framing the violence the band embodies. None of the songs are too long or too short, and not hurting for variety either. Disc 2, featuring the 28 minute epic ‘Observe’, is like ‘Tactical Nuke’ from Wormwood had a bastard child with Pig Destroyer’s ‘Natasha’. Massive breakdowns, though now swimming in light leads,with world-ending clips of dialogue, ambient passages, and a sorrowful string quartet to conclude the proceedings. One-dimensional meathead hardcore, this band is not.