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EP Review: Skeletonwitch’s The Apothic Gloom

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Across a growing number of recordings, Skeletonwitch have made their ensorcelled bones playing quintessentially satisfying extreme metal, auditory comfort food for the bullet-belt demographic. And we’re not talking about boxed mac ‘n’ cheese-powder or supermarket-hack confetti cake – the Ohioan heshers deliver texture, flavor and that pleasant, full-belly feeling with every serving of their slightly blackened (but otherwise subgenre-less) attack. Guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick provide the meaty cheesesteak riffage; drummer Dustin Boltjes brings the basketful of perfectly crunchy, well-seasoned fries; bassist Evan Linger lays down the chocolaty low end that rounds out the meal; and recently welcomed vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer, ex-Veil of Maya) rasps across the mix like those stinging/warming gulps of liquor that remind you what being alive feels like. It’s not a gourmet platter, but if you appreciate aggressive music, it’s hard not to enjoy.

This year, we’re treated to a short four-song set with The Apothic Gloom. The EP gets off to a bumpy start, to be honest, as the title track opens with an acoustic intro that drops abruptly into an ambling melodic prologue. It takes more than 90 seconds for the song to find its groove and really set itself alight, but when it does, it retains a reasonable midpaced tempo for quite a while, allowing each member of the band to showcase his talents (bass and guitars turn in particularly tasty performances) before jerking up the heart rate and setting the tone for the next few songs.

We’ve had “Well of Despair” around for several months, since the band introduced Clemans to their fans in preparation for this year’s Decibel Magazine Tour. The song races along while somehow offering dynamic ebbs and flows within its manic assault. “Black Waters” makes a similar splash and keeps the energy high while “Red Death, White Light” elevates their style with a bit of atmospheric blackness creeping into the guitar/drum interplay. It doesn’t veer wide of anything else here, but the subtly different feel helps give the seven-minute song a sense of purpose. There is no rest offered, no coming down as the EP ends – this is a high-powered nugget of metal that begs to be played multiple times in an hour.

Skeletonwitch are highly professional performers who bring all of that talent and ambition to making music that can energize their audience. They don’t use this EP to stretch outside their comfort zone, but their comfort zone still births some fiery, thoroughly enjoyable songs.

Skeletonwitch’s The Apothic Gloom comes out August 19 on Prosthetic. You can stream the EP here and pre-order it here.

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