SKELETONWITCH: WHAT LIES BEYOND THE PERMAFROST IS FIRE, BRIMSTONE… AND RIFFS!
Skeletonwitch has been a welcome anomaly these past few years. Amidst a resurgence of thrash and 80s throwback nostalgia, the band managed to stand head and shoulders above most emerging, like-minded acts, no doubt many thanks to their inclusion of equal parts thrash, N.W.O.B.H.M. melody, black metal vocals and Nordic nods in the quintet’s riffing and tempos. Breathing the Fire, their new Prosthetic Records release, further codifies these styles and influences, and confirms The ‘Witch’s music as both original and refreshing.
Starting off the way one would expect a Skeletonwitch record to start at this point in their career, Breathing The Fire whips into no holds barred, balls-out action with “Submit to the Suffering,” two minutes of blackened thrashing riffery and a ripping solo. That song transitions straight into another barn burner, and possibly one of the record’s strongest tracks, “Longing For Damnation.” Meanwhile, the end of “Released From the Catacombs” screams of Immortal-style riffing, while “Repulsive Salvation” mixes those black metal influences with relentless, thrash riffs and double bass drumming, and “Gorge Upon My Soul” showcases not only Skeletonwitch’s musical competence, but their collective creativity, variance, ability to write memorable riffs, leads, and solos.
That’s not to say Skeletonwitch is running at breakneck speed for the entirety of Breathing The Fire. Thankfully, on tracks like “Stand, Fight And Die” and album-closer “…And Into The Flame,” the band briefly relents in favor of gobs of melody and tempo shifts, something that has always made Skeletonwitch stick out from the crop of high top Reebok-sporting retro thrash clones to which they are often unjustly compared. The band’s knack for writing quality songs, more than simply rehashing Exodus or Slayer for the n-th time, certainly helps, too. On top of that, there’s vocalist Chance Garnette’s gruff, gravelly, black metal-influenced vocals – a welcome addition to the mix, dually giving the band an immediately recognizable sound that simply screams “SKELETONWITCH!”
Rest assured, gang. The rest of the band slays, too. Put drummer Derrick “Mullet Chad” Nau up with new bassist Evan “Loosh” Linger (you can hear that bass in the mix!) and longtime guitar cohorts Nate “N8 Feet Under” Garnette and Scott “Scunty D.” Hedrick, and add a Jack Endino (Nirvana, High on Fire, Toxic Holocaust, and about a million other bands across musical genres) production job that sounds top notch, organic, and tight, and you’ve got Breathing The Fire: an album with the Skeletonwitch sound proudly stamped on it out front, and a definite candidate for album of the year, at least for this reviewer. And you can’t forget that cover art, either. It’s the whole package: fire and brimstone, skulls and slick, sick, memorable songs.
(4 1/2 out of 5 horns)