Coma Which: The Acacia Strain Squints Forward, Gazes Back
The Acacia Strain — one of two bands liked by deathcore haters — was on an upward trajectory. After a couple green outings, they matured significantly on Wormwood and Death Is The Only Mortal, showing the world that songs comprised entirely of downtempo breakdowns could be fucking sweet. Even if you’re weren’t a mosh monkey, you could appreciate more than rhythms, hate-the-world lyrics, and drops upon drops. Still, with this singular shtick and close ties to some truly awful bands, TAS has to walk a fine line. And Coma Witch, out today, is a bit of a slip-and-fall.
But they were wearing harnesses.
See, specific to TAS are these “moments,” when tone changes, the downs break, and lyrics turn to camp and nihilism. The idea must be to goosebump you into being pissed off, to thumbnail all that hate finely amid the sheer thump-thump, and to stow the daft corniness of TAS’ also-rans. (Example: DITOM‘s”Time And Death And God,” still TAS’ best song, at 4:48.) Coma Witch is full of these moments, but their function is broken, or lost in a mire of generic chugga-chug and odd production. These moments are necessary to really take in TAS’ assault without being turned away by its silly intensity, and the lead-ups to these moments were laddered framework.
Songwriting was a strong suit for TAS, but the attempt to evaporate the past and condense a stronger future on Coma Witch only led to pretensions and a bad reliance on tropes. “Cauterizer” and “Send Help” are worthy, but “Whale Shark” and “Nailgun” are too hard-blown to be taken seriously. What TAS aimed to do was emulate their past, but knock it off kilter with progression and brainsmarts. Like how Colbert does O’Reilly.
Then Coma Witch’s last track does just that. Across 27 minutes, it resets the album’s tone and spares Coma Witch from the world’s deathcore hate. It’s cinematic, dramatic, atmospheric, and 100% angry. Totally bespoke and organic. The constructions of yore redrawn in a fourth dimension, with touches of flavor but not drying out style so much that it could be flattened and photocopied. It’s what the entire album should’ve been; wait, it should’ve been the entire album. Instead, Coma Witch is two deathcore records: a determinate, evolutionary odyssey preceded by a unambitious, bedazzled routine. Together, it’s confused and apologetic to make. As an exercise in decent deathcore for those who care, though – or those who honestly don’t give two spits — it’ll just have to do.