REVIEW: The Acacia Strain – Coma Witch [2014]


Artist: The Acacia Strain

Album: Coma Witch


Leaden, your eyelids droop, pulled down by what feels like eons of being pried wide open. You can’t remember the last time you slept—let alone the last time you felt rested or truly invigorated. Every time unconsciousness sneaks into your head and lulls you into its grip, you awake in a haze, somehow leaving a piece of you behind in restless purgatory—forever claimed by the Coma Witch. The latest offering from the Massachusetts monsters in The Acacia Strain is a soul-sucking, dream-devouring void that is heavy enough to beat its way through your skull and evil enough to drain every last ounce of sanity from your head—leaving you morally void and maliciously mindless by the time it has its way with you.

She lingers in your dreams—appearing consistently, but growing closer and stronger with each recurring visit. She looms closer, weaving her fingers into your head, caressing the gyri and sulci of your brain. She is the instrumentation behind The Acacia Strain’s latest release. Instrumentally, The Acacia Strain are a chimaera, constantly changing and evolving their sound. Where Wormwood hinted at musical progression, Death is the Only Mortal delivered it—and Coma Witch is no different. Borrowing elements from Death is the Only Mortal’s stellar fretwork, and relying heavily on Continent-era brute force and brutality, Coma Witch is the band’s most solid and immersive instrumental offering yet—beginning, as always, with their stellar percussive element. Drummer Kevin Butot is, for lack of a better term, an absolute beast, pummeling everything in sight. The introduction to the barn-burner (or Church burner) track “Holy Walls of the Vatican” is evidence enough—as a blitzkrieg fill flows beautifully into frantic, rapid percussion that harps heavily on the band’s hardcore roots. However, even while Butot is beating away with the fury of a wolverine and the energy of the Energizer bunny, guitarists Devin Shidaker and Robert Gomez take turns crushing the listener’s bones with steamrolling chugs and haunting their head with immense ambient leads. “Holy Walls of the Vatican” does this brilliantly—but it isn’t the only track that does. “Send Help” does a beautiful job of contrasting the band’s trademarked no-holds-barred heaviness with their developed penchant for arid, haunting leads that harmonize smoothly with the otherwise jagged, on-again-off-again chugs. Gomez and Shidaker’s grotesque, eviscerating fretwork is amplified by the low end provided by bassist Jack Strong. Strong adds heft and thickness to Butot’s beefy kick-drum, while amplifying Gomez’ chugs and contrasting Shidaker’s stellar leads. In short, Strong adds a gorilla glue-like element to The Acacia Strong that makes every jab and stab hit ten times harder.

She doesn’t stop merely with her touch—while her skin is acidic and flaming to the touch, it is her words that cause your skull to split and your sanity to leak in pools around her feet. Where The Acacia Strain’s musicianship and the improvement thereof is a marked attraction to Coma Witch, ultimately, the listener will find themselves trapped in love with this wicked release because of Vincent Bennett. A rightful legend in the lore of heavy musicianship, Bennett leads the charge, sending every lyric that decorates the glorious annals of Coma Witch straight into the listener’s eardrums. From the first blistering bellow of “Human Disaster,” to the off-kilter chorus of “VVorld Demise,” The Acacia Strain’s Coma Witch is home to a vocal performance that is not just miles beyond the band’s previous efforts, but miles beyond a majority of the band’s peers. Once again, the listener is forced to examine “Holy Walls of the Vatican.” Focusing on Bennett’s distrust and despise for the nuances of organized religion, “Holy Walls of the Vatican” is Bennett at his most poetic and aggressive, combining brilliant lyricism with intense aggression and subtle poetry that only gets better the more the listener repeats it. This occurrence is archetypical of the entire album: the more the listener plays it, the deeper it’s burned into their brain.

She will reach into your head, snare your mind and take…and take…and take until there is nothing left. Until you are a hollow shell, void of everything but a burning desire to be whole again. The Acacia Strain have established a dynamic that will leave the listener broken. By combining their most potent aspects from each of their releases, they have captured the true essence of their band and released their magnum opus to date. Looking for 3750 and The Dead Walk’s speed and angst? Check. But what about Continent’s crushing, earth-ending heaviness? Check plus. Wormwood’s emphasis on social commentary? Definitely. Finally, the hints of technicality and musical progression sprinkled throughout Death is the Only Mortal? Here, in spades. There is only one stone left in Coma Witch’s garden that needs upturning;  “Observer.” This nearly-28-minute-long journey is dense and dark. If Coma Witch is the figurative experience of listening to a nightmare, then “Observer” is the more literal counterpart. Dark, dismal and limb-dislocating breakdowns are punctuated by moments of eerie dissonance and odd samples. “Observer” is neither a plus nor a minus to the majesty of Coma Witch—it simply is. It demands to be experienced, even if the listener isn’t quite sure what there is to gain from having experienced it.

A hollow shell, abandoned by your personality and left roaming the earth looking for a safe place to rest—Coma Witch has ended the you you’d held in such high regard. The Acacia Strain do the same thing for heavy and hard-hitting deathcore. Coma Witch is the band’s figurative megatron, a sum of their best parts to a create a towering, discography-defining juggernaut. It is not simply enough to fear it—it must also be respected.



For Fans Of: Emmure, Demoraliser, Towers, Black Tongue, Traitors

By: Connor Welsh