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For a personal record, this marks the third time I've reviewed Beyond the Permafrost since 2008. Initially I had given it a good score but complained that the tracks were too samey, and the second time was just a short two paragraph blurb on Metal Crypt that I honestly didn't put much effort into because I just hadn't written anything in a while and wanted to get something out (Sorry Michel). Since then, I've been haunted by the memory of that first review. How many times had I listened to this album before crapping out a quick review during my poor (but productive) era? Like... twice? That's the only explanation for how a 17 year old version of myself could seriously manage to listen to this and come to the conclusion that it lacks variety. Not only is this Skeletonwitch's most varied album by a long shot in hindsight (this was their newest album when I reviewed it previously), but it's one of the most blatantly varied thrash records in recent memory, with more nods to black metal and shreddy trad metal than pretty much any other band in the genre.
Skeletonwitch belongs to the trio of bands that tend to get classified as retro thrash that I never, ever agreed with. To me, retro thrash is a tag reserved for bands who are doomed to hopelessly relive the 80s via staunchly opposing new and creative ideas. Bands like Violator and Fueled by Fire and Merciless Death whatnot who spend roughly 100% of their recorded material wishing upon a star that they could have been in Exodus. Bands like Cross Examination who try so desperately to capture the same lightning in the same bottle that Municipal Waste have, despite playing the style of music long after it became a popular and established genre again, thus making them look like yet another band of trendsters. These three bands who get grouped in with this semi-derogatory movement of retro thrash are Vektor, Exmortus, and Skeletonwitch. Vektor are worlds away from a majority of the silly movement they get lumped in with due to the fact that they're so far removed from the silly cliches that populate the scene. Not only are their lyrical themes unique, but their style of writing is so much more thought out and, dare I say, intellectual than most of the Havok's in the world that there really is no comparison. Exmortus should be obvious why they don't belong. Thrash is merely one component of their masterful blend of styles, and I'm hesitant to even consider it as their main style (Beyond the Fall of Time never happened in my universe, don't shatter my fragile psyche), they just tend to tour with a lot of silly thrash bands due to the band's connections/friendships and the fact that they hail from southern California.
And then we have Skeletonwitch, from the grim and evil fjords of southern Ohio. Normally I get pissy when I see the tag of "black/thrash" metal because it usually seems to mean "sounds like Pleasure to Kill" about 90% of the time, but Skeletonwitch are one of the few bands I've found who can successfully do justice to the genre (at least on their second and fourth albums, not so much the first and third). For real, the silly image you imagine when hearing a name like Skeletonwitch and the tag of retro thrash sure as hell doesn't bring to mind a band a serious, menacing, and vitriolic as this. I mean really, listen to the descending tremolo riffs and the blastbeats in "Limb from Limb", that right there is an honest to goodness black metal influence, not Kreator riffs with rough production. "Feast Upon Flesh" also flirts with black metal style dissonance and straight fucking evil sounding tremolo patterns. That is why I get just as frustrated when I see them lumped in with the retro thrash scene along with Vektor and Exmortus. Those three don't fit, and if you consider them to be a part of that whole thing, then I'm afraid we can't be friends.
The honest black metal influence is just one aspect of their sound, which is what makes any claim of facelessness factually incorrect. I mean, it doesn't take a classically trained music scholar to tell you that "Within My Blood" and "Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod" were written by the same band, but they really don't sound all that similar to one another. Some tracks are far more melodically focused ("Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery", "Within My Blood"), while others go straight for the throat with razor sharp thrashing intensity ("Upon Wings of Black", "Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod", "Fire From the Sky"), and some even go for a more slow building atmosphere of malice with a strong lead dissonance and churning sections of uncomfortable aggression ("Cast into the Open Sea", "Baptized in Flames"). There are so many different ideas on display, I didn't even touch on the melodic death metal inspired sections that are sprinkled tastefully throughout the runtime.
One thing that helps the band stand out are the versatile vocals of Chance Garnette. He mainly sticks to a high barking growl (I hesitate to call it a rasp, since there's a really coarse grit to it much like a deep death metal growl) and sparingly belts out a low bellow, sometimes overlaying the two. The thing about him is that he's good at both styles, and switches between them appropriately. Ya know, unlike Trevor Strnad who mars an otherwise stellar album in Nocturnal with his awful screech. In an album full of consistently high quality songwriting and performances, he still manages to find a way to stand out. I mean even the silly "TWO THREE GO!" part before the solo on "Within My Blood" (the climax of the album, mind you) manages to just be goddamn awesome. The entire record hinges on that moment, the climax of the last song, and with three completely unnecessary shouts he gives it a character that it would have never had otherwise, and makes the entire romp feel like it was all worth it. The fact that they're his last vocals before the very, very end highlight the fact that we're in the home stretch, and he's relieved to finally be reaching the end, he's almost home. It works, and the solo that follows does not disappoint. Beyond the Permafrost is one of the few albums I can think of off the top of my head that leave me with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction upon finishing.
Another thing that I feel gets understated a bit is Skeletonwitch's almost Bolt Thrower-esque ability to make their best material also be the most simple. I won't lie to you, there are some challenging passages and over the top technicality in bits and pieces ("Upon Wings of Black" and most notably "Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery") but I'll be damned if the best songs aren't the most stripped down and basic. I've mentioned "Within My Blood" several times already, and that's not just for the hell of it. It's based on a pretty basic melody and doesn't make any sudden movements or progress in any way other than exactly how you'd expect it to go, but it's satisfying because it knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything else. The title track is another brilliant example of a track with no surprises but makes up for it with sheer enthusiasm. If that bridge doesn't make you pump your fist or bang your head, then I don't want to know you. But the track that really takes the cake in this regard is easily "Vengeance Will Be Mine". Listen to it, it has like three riffs in the whole song and just repeats the same verse twice. But that verse is so irresistible to sing along with and the solo during the climax is so stupidly simple that I can't help but love it. It's easy to air guitar, easy to sing, easy to just rock all over the goddamn place. Skeletonwitch does this so well, they allow you to indulge in the big dumb caveman part of your brain while still having a ton of fun, giving you plenty of options of how exactly you can tard out, and keeps the presentation and production quality so high that you don't even feel like you're being stupid.
Most of the time an album tries to be a little bit of everything, it ends up bland across the board. That's where Beyond the Permafrost excels, it actually manages to be great at everything it touches. The dissonance is tasteful and the melody is powerful, the thrash is hard and fast and the trad metal leanings and dual lead melodies shred like nobody's business, the death metal tweaks and rhythms are crushing, and the black metal overtones are both subtle and prevalent at the same time. Everything works, and I think that is the album's downfall in a way. The following two albums (Breathing the Fire and Forever Abomination) would be much more focused efforts, with a lot less grabbing from random styles and more focusing on one or two niche areas, and as a result they'd be less interesting and less entertaining. Do yourself a favor and pick up Beyond the Permafrost, five years later I still spin it and enjoy it just as much as I did back when I realized how great it was.
2007 was a great year, wasn't it?
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
Skeletonwitch are a five piece thrash metal band from Athens, Ohio. Formed since 2003, the band had released one demo, one EP and one full-length prior to Beyond the Permafrost. The releases had contained re-distributed content with minimal new material to be experienced. On this second full-length installment, the track list is compiled of an even mixture of six old songs that have been re-done featuring the at-the-time current line up, and six new tracks awaiting to be unveiled to anticipated fans everywhere.
The production quality on this release is by far the highest of any Skeletonwitch album at the time of original debut. Some have found the quality to be rather low, but in comparison to their first full-length record, At One With the Shadows, the production is far superior. This is a highly important contributing factor to take into consideration when given the contents that awaits herein, "Baptized in Flames", "Vengeance Will Be Mine", "Feast Upon Flesh" and "Within My Blood" all originated from At One With the Shadows. "Beyond the Permafrost" and "Fire From the Sky" (also on the demo) were on the EP released previous to this full-length, along side another rendition of "Feast Upon Flesh".
Given the abominable quality of At One With the Shadows, it is easy to see why Skeletonwitch would want to re-release some of the stronger material from their debut album, and thankfully this time it worked out in the bands favor. Chance Garnette gives a beefier vocal performance having perfected his deep, beastly growls and gruff singing. In earlier versions of these songs, his vocal style took on a more high pitched shrieking than anything else, and this new presentation shows the fine tuning of his talents.
While examining the used content, "Baptized in Flames" got an introduction makeover that lets the track fade in gradually and "Within My Blood" gained an extension from being a 3:40 track to one that lasts for roughly 4:12. The rest are just audio quality upgrades that allow the listener to make sense of the once garbled bass lines. Eric Harris (now bassist for rising heavy metal stoner group, Huntress) makes his presence known, bringing with him groovy, crunchy, fast paced bass that gives a new depth to the tracks, a quality that was sorely absent on At One With the Shadows.
The new content is hit and miss. Of the six new tracks, the only real highlights are "Upon Black Wings" and "Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery". Swimming in unforgettable guitar riffs that bind themselves to the vocal patterns, this type of composure helps both elements compliment each other. There is also a previously unreleased B-Side included in some versions of this record, too bad "Bringers of Death" didn't make it into the original album track list, as it is one of more unique songs the band have produced and could have easily replaced forgettable songs such as "Cast Into the Open Sea".
A solid effort at a second full-length record, and while it is good to see a band that still pays homage to their roots this content probably would have fared better had the band saved the previously distributed content for later and let this new effort shine through all new material. Previous releases to this, such as Worship the Witch and their free Demo were full of repackaged older content that just ended up being rerecorded into half of the track listing on Beyond the Permafrost, leaving one not being able to help but feel slightly cheated. The new material that lies within is fairly lack luster save a few tracks here and there. If the listener hasn't heard At One With the Shadows, then the content present here will go a longer way as it will be fresh to them.
- Villi Thorne
While being something of an odd band out within the thrash metal revivalist scene of late, Skeletonwitch are undeniably a part of it, particularly in light of their de facto debut (though actually their second album) “Beyond The Permafrost”. While they had established themselves as a formidable underground act a few years prior to the explosion of old style thrash that occurred in 2007 when this album was released, this is where they became truly known, so the revivalist association is not inappropriate, though it is important to keep in mind that they are less conventional than a Fueled By Fire or a Skull Hammer.
Half of the songs that appeared on this album can be traced back to either “At One With The Shadows” (their now out of print small label debut) or the “Worship The Witch” EP which was put together independently. Both of these releases featured a melodic brand of early to mid 80s thrash metal with a somewhat archaic, yet also modern take on the blackened variant of the style. The results arguably border on a formulaic meeting ground between melodic death and black metal, yet apart from the vocals and the dreary production, this also resembles the likes of “Show No Mercy” and “In The Sign Of Evil”.
While the musical presentation is a bit varied and hybridized, surprises generally tend to be few, though quality is definitely a factor. Short thrashers such as “Upon Black Winds” and “Sacrifice For The Slaughtergod” showcases a band that can mesh the chaotic tendencies of early Bathory with the percussive precision and melodic trappings of more mainline thrash outfits like Heathen. The lead sections largely resemble a flashy middle ground between frenzied shredding ala Dave Mustaine and a slightly older school melodic character more associated with Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. The closing monster that is “Within My Blood” is among the more catchy songs I’ve heard in this style, introducing a strongly NWOBHM tinged melodic contour to the band’s fast and wicked extreme style, and also offering up some well accomplished lead guitar interchanges.
Perhaps the band’s greatest strength is that they are able to compress a number of elaborate ideas into small packages and also give vocalist Chance Garnett time to display his unique blend of Quorthon meets Pest shrieks and deep end John Tardy inspired grunts. None of these songs go too far past the 4 minute mark, and yet they have plenty of time for a number of differing fast and mid-paced sections. If nothing else, when approaching catchy and brief numbers like “Soul Thrashing Blackness” and “Feast Upon Flesh” show an ability to get a solid musical point across while avoiding needless repetition. One can’t help but see the parallels between this and the mid-80s craze with brevity heard on “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark” and “Reign In Blood”.
While not really the most amazing thing to crop out of thrash metal, for an age where early Metallica worship and some occasional Anthrax/S.O.D. emulation, Skeletonwitch got hold of a solid niche and have managed to infuse some 2nd wave and Gothenburg ideas into the equation as well. I still tend to prefer “At One With The Shadows” to this one, but both would be good to own, though the former contains several songs also found on the latter. This is the sort of band that even those who are not enthusiastic about all the revivalism going on today can get into.
Three years after their debut album, At One With the Shadows, the Witch launched its second strike, a 36-minute collection of headbang-inducing awesome riffs, pounding and speedy rhythms, sacrilegious vocal assaults and classy melodic solos, collectively known as Beyond the Permafrost. To many metalheads, this is the proper Skeletonwitch album to start with, and though personally I think At One With the Shadows deserves a chance to be heard, there certainly is a HUGE difference in quality and delivery from that solid debut to this iced riff monstrosity.
To be honest, this was the first Skeletonwitch album I listened to. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, though their excellent John Baizley cover artwork and magnificent logo (another massive improvement from their debut) seemed good signs. Nonetheless, I wasn’t exactly prepared for what I encountered. Beyond the Permafrost grabbed me by the balls with its frozen skeletal claw and never let go! I just had to listen to the first seconds of the opening song, “Upon Wings of Black”, to realize that this was going to be a “modern” metal masterpiece. For this has been empowered by the demons of old but crafted quite recently, in the second half of the past decade.
An experienced metalhead will found a lot of influences here. Most riffs here are classic 80’s thrash, like Vio-lence or Destruction. The raspy vocals and sinister melodies owe a lot to 90’s melodic extreme metal acts like Dissection or Sentenced, while the lower death growls are more the type of Bolt Thrower. And the memorable solos scream out loudly HEAVY METAL ala Priest. However, Skeletonwitch produces much more than just an amalgamation of varied influences of the wide metal spectrum. They have a style of their own, and though Chance Garnett’s vocals or the guitar team’s riffs can be compared to endless acts out there, they still sound like an original band, with a sound and style of their own. They’re not mere recyclers; they’re creators of high caliber melodic extreme metal.
Though “only” 36 minutes in length, Beyond the Permafrost has everything done right, each of its 2 to 4 minute rapid scorchers pummeling you senseless to the ground. And this is coming from someone who enjoys Dream Theater and 20-minute songs (though not as much as this!). Truly, all twelve fast anthems of death and destruction contained here are memorable and extremely catchy, and now backed up by a great production work, which is just perfect for this band. It might not appeal to everybody, cos it’s a bit thin, but I’m convinced it gives a lot of character to this album, its add as a very apt vibe of creepy coldness and also lets you enjoy what’s been done by each instrument or all of them together as well.
The guitar team of Nate Garnett and Scott Hendrick continue to shine in all areas, be it rhythmic or lead playing. Chance Garnett’s outstanding vocals, along with the guitars, are the leading elements of this ritual of evil, but the rhythmic section also performs brilliantly. New bass-guy, Eric Harris, besides having a true metal surname for a bassist, is also a compelling player, as stated by his fantastic mini bass solo in “Within My Blood”. And finally, Derrick Nau’s drum fills and lightning-fast patterns are really enjoyable, and though he never becomes stellar, he consistently remains an excellent backbone for the rest of the band. He really improved and refined his abilities behind the kit, as you’ll notice if you listen to their previous album.
So what about highlights here? Damn man! Well, I think depends more on personal taste, since all twelve tracks are pure, uncompromising, brilliant pieces of soul thrashing black sorcery (pun intended). The already mentioned opener is just mind-blowing. It’s followed by the title-track, which is equally magnificent, with its ultra catchy chorus. And then the next song owns, and the next after that, and so on, you just can’t go wrong with any of them. The re-recorded songs from the previous long play are given the treatment they deserved, and here they thrash with full demonic force.
I must say I somewhat agree with a reviewer that mentioned that the album gets a bit weaker at the end. I do think that “Remains of the Defeated” and “Feast Upon Flesh” are the less interesting and memorable of the tracks here, but for me the indisputable strongest track, the crowning jewel of this frost masterpiece, is the closer “Within My Blood”, completely perfected from its 2004 version. For me it’s easily the best 2007 metal song, I just love every single second of its 4 minutes of pure adrenaline discharge, from the driving, complete Maiden-worship melodies to the closing spectacular solos and the “Hallowed Be Thy Name” drum ending. Too much Maiden you say? Well, let’s not forget Chance Garnett vomiting forth its tormented lyrics:
I haven’t stopped listening to this helluva record since I listened to it for the first time, and I don’t think I ever will. I immediately fell prey to its hellish charm, becoming like a drug to me. I consider this the best 2007 metal album and one of my all-time favorites ever. It made me love this band and maniacally crave for any new material they’ve put ever since. And that is why, my dear metal brothers and sisters, I have to utterly recommend Beyond the Permafrost to any of you searching for an unparalleled masterpiece of melodic extreme metal that effortlessly combines elements of some of the finest epochs and genres of metal. Don’t stay frozen there! GET IT MOTHERFUCKIN’ NOW!
Like many albums I've reviewed, these guys are a little tough to really pin down in terms of genre. Many have called them a melodic death / thrash metal band, drawing apt comparisons to At the Gates's classic Slaughter of the Soul. While this is a good description, I think it's more fitting to call them a thrash metal band with some death metal influences (the latter mostly confined to the vocals and drums). The sound, to me, seems about two parts Dark Angel's Time Does Not Heal with one part Death's Leprosy.
The songs are compact, mostly hovering around three minutes in length, and largely they don't go under 99 miles an hour. Because of the speed and economy of the arrangements, and the generous helping of guitar solos, there is not a dull moment on the album.
Like other practitioners of retro metal (such as The Sword), they have also injected the retro flavor into the way they recorded the songs, for good or ill. The performances are extremely raw, retaining the energy and brutality of of a live recording--something which can be lost if you insist on a note-perfect mix. There is also a sense that they are using vintage equipment, either in their amps or recording equipment.
The Verdict: Skeletonwitch perfectly captures the metal attitude of two decades past, from their name to their album art to their music, but does so without merely rehashing what's been done before. It does lack a little polish, though. I wish they could have managed to get note-perfect recordings while still retaining the high energy level; others have managed to do it.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Athens, Ohio’s Skeletonwitch is melodic thrash metal with dark thematic elements heralding the oncoming firestorm that will assault your ears as it permeates the air. They are reminiscent of the early eighties thrash scene that birthed the likes of Anthrax, Slayer, Exodus and the European monsters of rock, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. As the tracks progress, you become more deeply immersed into a cold dark place, expressed best by the disk’s title track Beyond the Permafrost, and then taken right back out and thrown into the fiery pits of hell; a sonic shock to the system. Oh yeah, and lead singer Chance Garnette has a very unique vocal style, switching between death and black metal vocals like it was the most natural thing in the world to him. Adding another unique trait to the band’s sound.
The first track, “Upon Wings of Black”, is a representative power punch to the album’s overall feel. While the entire album isn’t entirely fast paced - The guys somewhat slow it down a little bit with the track “Baptized in Flames” - at least at first - building up to the full power intensity found throughout the album. They then pick it back up to the almost breakneck pace of the rest of the album with “Sacrifice to the Slaughtergod”, with no reprieve from the intense pace for the remainder of the album.
“Fire from the Sky”, “Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery”, and “Remains of the Defeated” seem to create a small story of domination, destruction and the aftermath. Okay. Maybe it’s the dark, evil streak that runs a mile wide down my back, but I think these are the best songs on the disk. I love the imagery of angels being incinerated and God and the Holy Ghost being systematically destroyed. Satanic hymns to get the little old church ladies into a tizzy. I would love this trio of songs to be whipped out over the intercom in the middle of a church service just to see how people reacted. It would be a beautiful blasphemy.
These Buckeyes then go on to close the album with lyrics like, “When the moon is gone and the son is dead,” painting a bleak, apocalyptic picture. The final track and the album ends with the line, “Evil demons now control my life,” a hopefully tell-tale sign of things to come on their next album, Breathing the Fire, which looks to be bringing back the companion character with their music, harking back to Megadeath’s Vic, or Iron Maiden’s Eddie. I hope so! Those guys were fun, and had the Joe Camel effect on me when I was young - it drew me in and made me buy!
by Kesh Butler, contributor from Metal Psalter Webzine
Beyond the Permafrost was probably the best impulsive buy I've made in recent memory. The only thing that lead me to get it was the pretty cool cover art and the fact that Skeletonwitch is probably the coolest name for a band ever. Lucky for me, it kicks ass! Skeletonwitch play an interesting blend of blackened thrash with a heavy emphasis on melody.
The most prominent factor of Beyond the Permafrost is the song writing and song structuring. Seems like a really redundant thing to say, but here it couldn't be more true. Every song is a little over 3 minutes and are filled to the brim with balls-out thrash riffs and melodies, and despite being so short, almost all of the songs progress quite nicely without mindless riff repetition. Cast Into the Open Sea is a great example of this. It begins as a fast thrasher and ends as an extremely melodic note, and does this without any ridiculous shifts in tempo. It just flows really well, as do all of the songs. The problem with this formula regardless of how well it works is that it makes the songs run together. Even after listening to this album for 6 months I still have trouble recognizing one song from another, which doesn't really matter that much since they're all pretty damn good.
The vocals deserve a mention here, as Chance Garnett mainly uses blackened shrieks and growls, and often switches back and fourth between the two in a single song. Lyrically, there are about three main themes present, ranging from begging for mercy, gore, and coldness, or a combination of the three. Obviously the lyrics aren't meant to be taken very seriously, and are actually pretty laughable at how ridiculous they are. Not that you should expect epic poetry from a band named Skeletonwitch, but it does add to the "fun factor" of it all.
The production here fits quite nicely . The guitars do have a pretty great, bitey tone, and they still manage a nice crunching sound whenever the music slows down. The bass is pretty much indecipherable, and probably only exists for the sake of heaviness, so not really much to talk about there. Surprisingly, you can actually interpret what is being screeched or growled quite coherently, which is always a plus. The drumming is good I suppose. It's usually a constant wall of double bass of blasting, but it slows down when necessary, and doesn't do anything distracting, but also nothing really worth mentioning. Skeletonwitch doesn't fall victim to overproduction here either. The sound is very natural and believable.
Overall, Beyond the Permafrost is a great thirty minutes of fun thrashing. It's not meant to be taken to be taken too seriously, but it's not necessarily a joke either, as they are obviously capable of writing great music. I can't really suggest individual tracks, because they are all pretty much the same, but I would recommend Beyond the Permafrost to anyone interested in having a good subzero thrashing.
On the surface, Skeletonwitch appear to be a thrash band. They certainly look the part, and they have one of those logos that make you think they're gonna be another soulless creatively vacant retro thrash band. Then they start playing and you realize none of these things are true. The next sentence is going to scare many people, but I'm going to ask you to bear with me. Skeletonwitch are extremely melodic.
If you're still here, thank you. Now then, when you hear "melodic", you probably assume they're some really wimpy half-assed thrash that forces a bunch of Gothenburg melodies in. You would be completely wrong. Skeletonwitch use both nice melodic melodies and more dissonant, black metalish melodies. The main thing, though, is that they don't incorporate them into the songs so much as they are the songs; instead of playing melodies over shitty riffs they work the melodies into the riffs via the miracle of pedalling, which is a musician thingy you may not care about. Anyhow, this doesn't sound so good on paper, but they pull it off very well. The guitar tone on this album is thin, but rather than thin and weak, it's thin and biting, the perfect tone to carry out these jagged melodies. Played over tradition thrash drumming, this stuff is hard not to headbang to. Of course, it's not all melody; there's plenty of typical power chord riffs, but no real thrash riffs, because like I said this isn't really thrash. But it is thrash. It's hard to explain; you'll have to listen to some of their stuff and then you'll see what I mean. The riffing style is not thrash, but the music, the structure, the attitude, the aesthetic, is completely thrash.
Skeletonwitch are smart. One thing which can bring down thrash (and a lot of music, really) is long-windedness. Some bands (old Metallica, for example) can pull off six-to-eight minute songs. Most can't. What Skeletonwitch recognize is the same thing Slayer recognized on Reign In Blood*; they can't play for six minutes without losing any semblance of power or force, but when they thrash out for two to three minutes it sounds fucking awesome. Skeletonwitch also recognize that at two to three minutes songs can start to blend into each other, so they mix it up a bit stylistically. There's the more death metal fare, like Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod and Remains of the Defeated, and there's some more melodic black metal sounding material, like Baptized in Flames and Fire From the Sky, as well as stuff that's just plain old melodic headbanging. Looking at those song titles, you may be noticing some common lyrical themes; indeed, Skeletonwitch don't stray far from the pack lyrically. Everything is about fire and Satan and worshipping the witch; however, the lyrics are generally well written and often catchy. No original sentiments, but what the fuck do you expect?
One thing that can make or break thrash, as with any music, is the production. Here Skeletonwitch excel. The guitar sound, as previously mentioned, is thin in a good way, but can still deliver on the heaviness; see the end of Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod for proof of this. The drums are well mixed; the snare has a slightly dull sound, but this does keep it from intruding on the guitars. The drum performance is excellent; varying the beats just enough to avoid monotony while sticking to classic driving thrash drumming, with tasteful fills. The bass is not heard, not surprisingly, but it's there I guess, because this album, despite being focused on higher-register melodies, doesn't really lack for bottom end. The guitar playing, by the way, is excellent; leads are tasteful and avoid shredding cliches in favor of well-composed old school metal solos. The vocal performance is also quite good. The vocalist alternates between screams and growls; don't think deathcore, these are real death metal growls and real black/melodic death metal rasps. The rasps work very well with the melodic guitars; the growls clash a bit but on the heavier riffing sections work quite well. The vocalist realizes this and chooses accordingly. The general aesthetic, however, is what pulls it all together. Where Warbringer and their ilk struggle to capture the feeling of the old school thrash bands they shamelessly ape, Skeletonwitch fully capture the authenticity of the old school thrash bands they don't ape. When I think of Skeletonwitch I see the band, horns held high, half empty bottle of Jack in the other hand, tearing down the highway in a beat-up van at a hundred miles per hour. This album is very good; not a timeless classic, but an interesting, slightly original, and highly worthwhile album all the same.
*That's not to say this is anywhere near that masterpiece, by the way.
This is the first review I have submitted to Metal Archives and it is actually this album that has prompted me to do it. Having been a listener, fan, devotee, and follower of thrash metal since 1985 I have many opinions of bands and the albums they have released. And, like so many fellow thrashers, I have gone many years listening to albums recorded many years prior and wondering if there would ever be any more great thrash releases. Well, with Beyond The Permafrost I have found what is, in my humble opinion, the best thrash album to be released in the last god-knows-how-long.
Each track on this album is a throwback to the days when thrash albums held something exciting for the listener - fast, energetic, aggressive and heavy. These guys are like a breath of fresh air in an already revived scene. Forget the plethora of long-established bands that are desperately trying to keep a foothold in metal but can't seem to avoid boring groove-orientated 'nu-thrash', this rips them apart. Slayer have been my favourite band since 1985 but stick this album up against Christ Illusion and you can see where the future lies. The UK's Evile are ther closest thing to Skeletonwitch, if not in style but in their passion.
This isn't death metal or black metal although there are definitely hints of those genres here (Dismember, for sure, is a band that Skeletonwitch sound a bit like and this is because of the obvious influences of the NWOBHM in Skeletonwitch's music, and Witchery is another classic band that comes to mind; listen to track 6, Limb From Limb- black metal influences; listen to track 7, Cast Into The Open Sea - NWOBHM influences) but no, this is Bay Area-inspired thrash with maybe a little Sodom, Pestilence and early Destruction thrown in.
The production is in most respects very good. Rarely nowadays do thrash albums come out sounding like Beyond The Gates, but a major gripe I have, and one that costs this album 2.5% is the fact that Chance Garnette's excellent vocals are so low down in the mix. Was he there at the mixing sessions? His vocals would have made this album ten times heavier had they been higher in the mix.
The guitars are a joy to hear. The twin guitars give a feeling of a live recording. There are tracks where the rhythm guitars seem to be doing totally different things, and indeed they are, but it all ends up coming together in a blaze of heaviness and melody, and that is a key thing on this album - melody.
Stick on track 3 - Baptized In Flames. I cannot stop listening to this track. It brings tears to my eyes with the pure emotion. As the twin guitars and double bass drums emerge and erupt into a beautifully melancholy piece of thrash the only band I can think of that has given me this feeling of real emotion in their music is Carnivore on their first album. Think Thermonuclear Warrior or World Wars III & IV.
The only other aspect of the album which cost it points for me is the drum sound. It is weak. The drumming is good, don't get me wrong, but Derrick Nau should have had a heavier drum sound rather than this. That cost another 2.5% but everything else - the speed, the tightness, the beautifully melodic but fast as fuck solos - everything else makes this a must have album for anyone who wants it fast and furious, just like the old days.
Been waiting for the first truly memorable thrash band from the so called new wave of thrash bands?! Well look no further then Skeletonwitch. Their Prosthetic debut, Beyond the Permafrost is easily the best post 2000 thrash album from a thrash metal band that wasn’t actually around in the 80’s. These guys have seemingly summoned the spirit of everything that made 80’s thrash great and stuffed it into a slick, thrashing, melodic, face melting disc. Beyond the Permafrost promises great things from this young band as they shred through 12 tracks of speedy, melodic blackened thrash metal. With influences ranging from black metal (especially on vocals) to NWOBHM (just listen to track 12) these guys manage to pack hooks in by the dozen, and leave everything in it‘s path obliterated.
The music definitely has the 80’s NWOBHM galloping quality to it, mixing it in with the speed picking of thrash’s heyday to great success. Derrick Nau’s drum work is good, but seems mostly just hanging out behind the massive wall of guitar sound. Which leads me to the riff masters themselves, Nate Garnett and Scott Hedrick, the real stars of the show. Their riffing is unbelievably tight and fast, but never at the expense of melody, as it runs rampant throughout the disc.
There are definitely some memorable tracks on the album, including the shred-tastic opener “Upon Black Wings“, the title track, “Beyond the Permafrost“, the violent “Sacrifice for the SlaughterGod“, the progressive “Cast into the Open Sea“, and the apply titled “Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery”.
And that isn’t even mentioning the mini epic that closes the album (clocking in at just over 4 min.), the Iron Maiden inspired “Within my Blood” that sends the album out on a high note and leaves you wishing for more. This song alone is worth listening to multiple times, especially since the first time around you’ll probably miss Eric Harris’ mini bass solo at around the 2 minute mark.
The album isn’t without it’s problems however. The mix on Beyond the Permafrost is questionable as the guitars are prominently featured, leaving the vocals, and at times, the drums in the dust. Which in my opinion is a real shame because the weakness of the bass drum on the album actually affects the album's “heaviness“. Chance Garnett’s vocals are pretty solid, ranging from black metal shrieks to death metal lows. But don’t worry about the vocals being so low in the mix, because upon repeated listens, the vocals become slightly more audible, and really do add to the music. Another problem, especially the first couple times you spin the disc is that the album seems to drag, especially in the middle towards the end. But most of the songs clock in at just over 3 minutes, which doesn’t allow much time for any one song to become too stale. Repeat listens will remedy this problem somewhat, as you’ll no doubt discover melodies and hooks on songs that you didn’t even notice the first time around.
Overall, this is for fans of thrash metal and all metal fans in general. As others have pointed out before me, Beyond the Permafrost is without a doubt the thrash album of 07, and easily in the top 10 of best metal albums of the year (2007). Pick this one up immediately and raise the horns in appreciation of this amazing metal album. Hail!
Forsaking the adage “out with the old…” the latest album by SkeletonWitch is a strong contribution to the current old-school metal resurgence in line with other recent releases by 3 Inches of Blood, Dekapitator, and Blood Tsunami, among others. The music itself flashes moments of thrash, black metal, death metal, and that classic NWOBHM gallop, but the predominant characteristic is speed. The vocals are unleashed in curdled black metal gurgles accompanied by occasional deeper growls.
Methodical, gradual-paced album intros are overrated; “Upon Wings of Black,” the opening track on Beyond the Permafrost, battering rams through an unlocked door, launching a blistering guitar solo within 2 seconds of pressing 4. In a battle of song titles, “Baptized in Flame” may not oust “Baptized in a Storm of Swords” (by Goatwhore) for the title of most metallic unholy rite of passage, but be that as it may, it still achieves blazing velocity capable of searing flesh with the Dark Lord’s seal. Track 7, “East into the Open Sea,” directs the album into darker waters as it drifts away from speed metal energy and relies more on traditional black metal bleakness. As a grand summarization, the closer, “Within My Blood,” makes millisecond transitions from a Maiden-esque stride, to disparaged black metal chords, to neck-snapping thrash.
Thrash and speed metal purists may be repelled by SkeletonWitch’s menacing death/black metal vocals, but if you like artists such as Immortal and Enslaved anywhere near as much as you love Master of Puppets, this is disc a pretty safe bet for frequent rotation.
This is actually quite a good album, a thrash group with black/death metal elements that make for a quality listening experience. The songs have a good degree of variance, and each member plays his instrument capably.
That being said, there are pieces missing here. The biggest weak point was the production. Upon listening, it sounds as though they were trying to go for an authentic 80's metal sound, but it doesn't quite work. While the album is mixed well and is very heavy, there seems to be a lot missing on the guitars. The tone on the solos sounds weak, and sometimes it gives otherwise solid ideas an amateurish quality.
The solos themselves are unimpressive, and only seem to be present for the sake of having guitar leads. While Nate and Scott are capable musicians, there isn't a whole lot of substance there, and the weak sound makes the leads fall flat entirely.
What does work is the black metal aspect, it has a fine classic black metal "wall of sound" that adds dimension to the songs, which they use tastefully. While there are other so-called "black thrash" bands, Skeletonwitch does not pigeonhole themselves in as being more of one than another, but an excellent mix of the two where none of the elements seem out of place.
The vocals by Chance Garnett are outstanding, a solid evil sound without being too raspy or screamy. It works very well with the style that they have created. The vocal sound definitely outweighs the lyrical content, which is mostly based around the blood/ice/fire/murder themes that are comfortable for most extreme metal bands.
The rythym section is as good as it has to be, with neither bass or drums trying to outshine the guitars or vocals.
All in all I would recommend this album, it's a welcome departure from the glut of US mallcore bands that have sprung up, and there is enough of older and newer styles at work to please a good portion of the metal crowd. There is plenty of room for growth here, and I am looking forward to the next Skeletonwitch album.