Review: Skeletonwitch’s Serpents Unleashed is a Perfectly Functioning Extreme Metal Voltron


No album this caustic or head-caving should wrap listeners in the warm-fuzzies quite the way Serpents Unleashed does.  Skeletonwitch launch a hairstorm of grotesque aggression upon earth, sky and sea – why do I feel an imminent bro-down with an 80% chance of fist-pound-into-firework-fingers?  When did I ever wish to respond to the line, “I’d love to see you fucking die!” with such gleeful good will?  When did sulfur ever smell so heart-warming?

Serpents Unleashed is the sound of a perfectly functioning, perfectly balanced band of equals fusing their strengths into a genre-less extreme metal Voltron.  It’s the buddy cop shenanigans at the end of their respective trilogies.  In an uninterrupted ascent that has turned heads and minds through their previous four albums, Skeletonwitch have finally divided and conquered the mix impeccably, carving out songs that prove each member exciting and indispensable to the Skeletonwitch process.

The two-guitar team of Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick have riffed out some driving, killer tunes.  Thrashy, rhythmic attacks butt up against adventurous leads and solos, ascending to breathless heights and diving into hellish crevasses befitting the album art that has adorned the last couple records.  Dustin Boltjes’ drums match fierce tempos with high-intensity groove workouts, providing all the right emphases and accents.  Evan Linger wields his bass like a maniacal surgeon, delving deeply into the bowels of every song, not just to prop up with low end but to reveal further secrets buried in the riff structures.  Truly, the bass agility and accessibility on this record propels the Serpents Unleashed listening experience well beyond the expected levels of awesome.  And then Chance Garnette screams down from the iciest peaks like a corpse-painted Scandinavian snow demon, as if somehow a guy from Ohio in a mostly un-black metal band could ever hate human civilization as completely as all that.  (For the record: we’re convinced.)

Of course, while the songs and performances all testify to the band’s collective excellence, the reason we can enjoy each acute detail so heartily won’t be found within the Skeletonwitch ranks.  Converge’s Kurt Ballou mounted the producer’s throne this go ‘round, and Skeletonwitch members have been very vocal in their praise of his ear and his attention to reeling in the very best that this band has to offer.  The deft craftsmanship evident in the instrumental and vocal interplay is appreciable because Ballou found the best way to make Skeletonwitch sound like Skeletonwitch.

The hell-furnace projectile heat-vomiting opening of “Beneath Dead Leaves” that loosens into feisty melodicism and a supremely satisfying guitar lead.  The puffed up tension of “From a Cloudless Sky.”  The slow, glamorous rise of “Unending, Everliving.”  The bat-winged groove of “This Evil Embrace.”  The curiously pretty intro to “More Cruel Than Weak.”  These are just the favorite bits that I can pick out right now.  Next time through it’ll be something else.  No matter your tastes, Serpents Unleashed should be a late 2013 treat to check out this month.

Skeletonwitch’s Serpents Unleashed comes out October 29 on Prosthetic. Stream the entire album here and pre-order the album here.

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