Surprise album drops are always a treat, especially when they come from such prolific bands in the scene. Whilst the end of year festivities were passing by, Massachusetts metalcore legends The Acacia Strain (TAS) dropped It Comes In Waves. A dark, mature, and overall punishing album, which even those who aren’t big fans of the subgenre such as myself can thoroughly enjoy.
As mentioned before, I’m not the biggest fan of this area of metal; however the fact TAS can absolutely floor me with this album should be a testament to what they’ve achieved here. The greater focus on atmosphere and ambience serves this release massively, and the occasional nods to doom and death metal keep It Comes In Waves feeling fresh.
This artistic direction is prevalent right from the get go. Album opener “OUR” explodes into a pummeling deathcore verse before slowing down into pure riff worship. This non reliance on the tried and tested method of jumping into breakdowns is what sets this album apart from its contemporaries, instead relying on solid riffs and pounding production to induce unavoidable headbanging.
The seamless blending of these two different styles of metal is also an impressive feat, and shows development from the ideas presented on their previous full-lengths such as the mighty, 27-minute “Observer” from 2014’s Coma Witch.
Some tracks have a definite lean towards TAC’s typical style, but even these are done through this new, darkened lens the band has adopted. The shortest track on this album, “THEM,” is deathcore piece through and through, but its short runtime coupled with the constantly shifting riffs keeps up the momentum and sees you nicely into the appropriately healthy, eight-minute outro, “NAMES.”
This burst of momentum was needed halfway through the album, however, with the track “WAS” slowing this release down a bit. Samples are heavily used on this album and serve to prop up the great musicianship, yet “WAS” relies on them to drive the song forward with the riffs just lacking that doom-tinged edge the rest of It Comes In Waves boasts.
The more brooding atmosphere of the album can also sometimes come off a little weaker than the band no doubt intended. The cut “SIN” somewhat fades in and after an upbeat, aggressive intro and sadly lacks a lot of the newer musical elements TAS have experimented with on the rest of this release.
Though at times It Comes In Waves can feel slightly misguided, TAS have still crafted an album which is an instant stand-out in the genre, and it’s great to see such a well-established name unafraid to push their own boundaries. It’s an eye opener for long-time fans and a very welcome surprise to those outside of this scene.
It Comes In Waves was released December 26 through Closed Casket Activities and is available HERE.