without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
In an age where heavy metal seems to be dominated by a mix of fad-obsessed metalcore bands, tech/brutal death metal bands that all sound the same, and this awful deathcore craze, Skeletonwitch offer a nice throwback to old school thrash metal with some modern day influences thrown in.
At the very heart of the music, their basic style of playing is clearly thrash metal. Yet there is also a distinct influence of melodic death metal, and at times black metal. The guitars on "Breathing the Fire," are excellent, and seem to have been influenced by classic thrash metal bands such as Sodom, Kreator, and to a certain degree Exodus. At the same time, there is also a clear influence of other genres.
On tracks like "Submit to the Suffering," and, “Longing For Domination," the guitars show off their thrash metal side and plays fast aggressive riffs that scream thrash metal. The solos are very expertly played and have a very nice melody to them that resembles early Children of Bodom and veteran black metal band Immortal on their album "At the Heart of Winter." Yet on "Stand Fight and Die," and "Gorge Upon My Soul," the guitars slow down and play a more melodic death style that bears resemblance to bands like Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Wintersun, and others, showing a variation in the style of playing.
The drumming is excellent all the way through, and I almost want to call it standard thrash metal drumming. Yet at times it sounds similar to the drumming in some tech death bands. The bass is fairly audible most of the time, and doesn't do much than follow the guitars and give the music a deeper sound to it.
The vocals are something I do have a little problem with. For the most part, Garnett uses a style which to me sounds almost exactly like Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy most of the time, along with Ravn of 1349 fame. The difference however is that unlike Gossow and Ravn, whose voices are pretty much a monotone all the time, Garnett can lower his voice to John Gallagher/Frank Mullen style growls which sound much better than his default setting.
Overall, "Breathing the Fire," is a good album and breathes a breath of fresh air into thrash metal, which as far as I can tell has gone into a coma.
From the moment I knew the ancient demon-worshipers, melodic extreme metal crafters that go by the name of Skeletonwitch were going to release this one I got extremely anxious to get my hands on it, since Beyond the Permafrost became my daily meal. When I finally got it, couldn’t avoid comparing Breathing the Fire to its predecessor, and continued to do it after several (dozens) of repeated listens. Sadly, my ruling didn’t change: I firmly find myself among those few that hold Skeletonwitch’s sophomore in higher regard than this one, their third installment.
That doesn’t mean Breathing the Fire doesn’t kick tremendous ass. In fact, this album boasts the best production work ever in Skeletonwitch’s “brief” existence, and a helluva cover artwork. Despite my utmost respect and admiration for John Dyer Baizley and his artwork, many bands started using him, mirroring the Seagrave-syndrome of the early 90’s death metal scene. Don’t get me wrong, many bands pick Seagrave or Baizley ‘cos they fucking own, but I think Skeletonwitch were wise to pick someone else (Andrei Bouzikov in this case) for their artwork, and it works magnificently. Meatier colors for meatier production, thicker than, yet as crisp as, on the previous album.
However, this album didn’t enthrall me immediately as its predecessor. It took it some time to grow on me, starting with “Submit to the Suffering” which is a strong opener, but it’s pretty short and leaves you wanting more. Same thing with the next couple of tracks, “Longing for Domination” and “Where the Light Has Failed”. Now, its until I got to “Released from the Catacombs” and especially “Stand, Fight and Die” that I started to feel the true power of this band being unleashed. Not that any of the twelve thrashers here are devoid of it, and surely you’ll find yourself compulsively headbanging and thrashing to them, but they’re not as instantly ensnaring as on Beyond the Permafrost despite possessing the same type of massive riffage, excellent soloing, metal-solid percussion and signature Chance Garnett’s unholy throat onslaught.
Skeletonwitch rarely reaches the 4-minute mark in most of their songs, but in this case I think some songs are just too darn short, and were suited for further development, an idea reinforced by the fact that the best songs of Breathing the Fire are the longer ones. “Stand Fight and Die” is a mid-paced, epic feeling thrasher with a slick outro, “Repulsive Salvation” has killer tremolo melodies and an obliterating breakdown (and I’m not talking about anything “core” here), the closer “…And into the Flame”, has an interesting drumming motif while my personal favorite, “Gorge Upon My Soul” has the most interesting vocal parts, lyrics, solo, and overall composition. The exception of this “fact” is the brutal, unrelenting and brilliant “The Despoiler of Human Life”. And while actually BTF is just two minutes shorter than BTP, I was hoping for Skeletonwitch to break a bit from their mold and come up with more ambitious ideas, perhaps like Soilwork experienced with their first two albums, almost doubling their songs in length from their debut to their sophomore to great avail.
In a nutshell, Breathing the Fire is a great companion to Beyond the Permafrost, keeping the evil spirit alive, but not an improvement, at least in my humble opinion. Some passion and ambition is lacking, but it still destroys most melodic extreme metal offerings being crafted in the 21st century, so you can’t go wrong in picking this one up. Let your ears breath the fire! (oh, what a cheesy review ending...)
Skeletonwitch holds a rather unique place among the thrash revivalist movement, in fact I’d argue they don’t really qualify as part of it given their heavy contrast with most of the rehashed 80s orthodoxies of bands such as Fueled By Fire and Municipal Waste. There is a definitely familiarity with the proto-blackened thrash outfits of the early 80s, as well as with that of the darker Teutonic bands, but their sound is more palpable to the music of the 90s. Even if there was a way to link the band with the more extreme 80s thrash element, these aspects of their sound went by the wayside with a recording contract and a beefed up production.
For many, the latest studio effort “Breathing The Fire” marks the band’s highest point thus far. However, much of this is likely tied in with the fact that the band has become much more stylized, and with it an approach that is more in line with recent Gorgoroth albums. They’ve always approached album creation in a similar fashion to that of Slayer-inspired death metal bands, and generally don’t break the 40 minute duration mark. But here the songs rely a bit more on repetition and less on additional riff work, and consequently there is slightly less content. Actually, of all the band’s respective releases, this one seems to come and go the quickest and leaves an itching desire to listen to it again just to make sure it actually was that short.
Like with any of their releases, this one is definitely not short on vile, nasty, riff happy thrash with decrepit barks and shrieks. Sometimes dense tremolo harmony layering with a hint of shimmering blackness emerges in “Stand Fight And Die” and “Gorge Up My Soul”; definitely playing up the Gorgoroth influences here. At others things are a bit more streamlined and brutal as is the case of “Crushed Beyond Dust” and “Blinding Black Rage”, the latter of which almost sounds like it could have been on an early Deicide or Cannibal Corpse album. No matter what the song, the name of the game is riffs, wandering melodic material, and a varied yet organized mishmash of death and black vocalizations, and this band plays it quite nicely.
The same format that is going on here can be found on a number of albums that came out between 1990 and 1995 in the death metal genre, though the stylistic template is closer to a Sodom-like interpretation of the early 90s Norwegian sound. The slightly more posh production takes a little bit of thunder out of this in comparison to the now out of print debut, and the slightly thinner content makes it slightly less moving than “Beyond The Permafrost”, but this is definitely something that is worth the time of fans of moderately extreme metal with a little helping of old school sentiments.
Now I know most of my reviews on this site are for death metal albums and though I am a huge fan of the genre, I’m a thrash fan at heart. Slayer was the first metal band that I liked and they were the band that got me into metal. So, naturally, when I was first exploring the metal genre the bands that I took the greatest interest in were bands that were similar to Slayer. For those reasons, I’ll always enjoy thrash a little more than I enjoy death metal. Now Skeletonwitch is a bit of a treat for me because they mix so many genres but still manage to keep the thrash influence prominent in the riffs. Their last album Beyond the Permafrost was one of my favourite albums of 2007 and I think they’ve done even better this time around. Seriously, everything on this album is an improvement over previous efforts. The guitar riffs are more aggressive but still remain melodic as ever. The solos are still lengthy and melodic with hints of Mercyful Fate and even the vocals have improved!
I mentioned that the vocals have improved and the truth is they haven’t really changed that much. Chance still rasps his way through the songs with vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on your standard black metal album. The thing that makes his vocals stand out though, is that occasionally he throws in a really low-pitched growl and that is where the improvement is. On the last album, the growls were low but these growls are really low and his transitions between his black metal rasps and his low growls are unnaturally natural for him.
The riffs are really fast and tremolo picked, the way thrash riffs should be. There are also really nice thrash breaks in here. At the very beginning of the album during Submit to the Suffering there’s a part where all instruments stop and a riff is played that commands you to BANG YOUR HEAD. Come on! You’re missing your que!! START BANGING!!!!! The solos are really well played as well and are sure to grab your attention. The solo in Released From the Catacombs is an excellent display of the shredding these guys are capable of.
The drums are really cool, the intro to Longing for Domination is awesome and there are even some blast beats on this album! The drumming is really solid and helps to keep the songs together. There are nice interesting fills and furious double bass drumming.
The Bass can’t really be heard except on The Despoiler of Human Life where you can hear it galloping away furiously to keep up with the fast riff. For the most part the bass isn’t really too interesting.
The only complaint I have about this album is that the songwriting could be improved. Not that the songs aren’t interesting enough it’s just that the songs are rather short. The whole album is only about 35 minutes and there are 12 songs. I know this is thrash so long song lengths aren’t usually important but I’d like at least one 4 minute song.
I would recommend this album to any fan of Skeletonwitch because I believe that this is the best thing this band has ever done. Also, if you’re a fan of thrash, black or death metal it will not be a waste of time to check this out. I would even go as far as saying that this is one of the best albums of the year.
- The thrash breaks
- The awesome solos
- Intro to Longing for Domination
- Chance’s deep growls
- Solo in Released From the Catacombs
My barrier for entry into the sounds of Skeletonwitch has always been the vocals; which is unusual, because I like many other bands that use the same vocals over black or death metal. But something about the grunts and snarls over this particular crisp, riffing style just does not sit well with me. That said, Breathing the Fire has proven one thing: despite any misgivings I have over Chance Garnett's throat, the band is a riffing monstrosity, so much on this album that it eventually won me over.
Breathing the Fire is the band's most accomplished work, a seamless onslaught of steady rhythms that will easily spark the ire of any mosh pit maven or fan of pure 80s riffiness. Sure, there are no songs that had me gasping for an immediate replay as I do with many of my favorite thrash bands, but the guitars across the entire album are very pleasant to bang one's head to, and where they veer slightly into the realm of death metal (as on the bridge of "Longing for Domination"), the quality remains intact. The solos are also pretty great here, they just launch right into their respective tracks at the same relative level as the rest of the mix, and there are usually minor treasures of riffs to find within them. This is a very consistent album, so choosing individual tracks is difficult, but the sanguine melodies of "Released from the Catacombs", "Gorge Upon My Soul" and "The Despoiler of Human Life" stood out slightly, as well as the edgy, thrashing "Stand Fight and Die".
Like most of their records, this one has an organic, honest vibe to the production. The band plugged in their favorite amps, played their songs, polished it up, and mixed it evenly. There is very little flourish, and none is needed. It's a thrash metal album, and it lives or dies by its riffing. Skeletonwitch has lived through this one with some room to spare. Perhaps not one of my favorite thrash albums of late, but it certainly raised my interest more than the band's backlog.
There doesn't seem to be much consensus in the metal world on exactly what subgenre Athens, Ohio quartet Skeletonwitch belongs in, but classification shouldn't really matter as long as the music is this awesome. Breathing the Fire, the follow-up to 2007's top-notch Beyond the Permafrost, is stylistically identical to its predecessor but has even better riffs, solos, demonic vocals and horns-in-the-sky, Satan-hailing lyrics. This album is, if nothing else, incredibly goddamned metal.
Things start off a little weaker than the incredible one-two punch of "Upon Wings of Black" and "Beyond the Permafrost" from the last album, but once the record kicks into gear it's a thrashing good time, and it's clear that this is beer metal in the purest sense of the term. Thrashing tracks like "The Despoiler of Human Life" and "Crushed Beyond Dust" storm into the room, take no prisoners, and leave sword-filled corpses and crushed PBR cans in their wake. This is music that the listener is almost required to bang your head to, and if that was Skeletonwitch's only goal, then the album is a runaway success.
That said, this band could still stand to tighten the screws a little bit. Very few of the songs feel fully fleshed out, and the album feels somewhat incomplete as a result. Skeletonwitch seem to have a handle on the riff-writing and solo-writing processes, but are still eluded by the songwriting process. Still, there's a lot of promise for the future. The brilliantly titled "Repulsive Salvation" is an honest-to-God song, with a beginning, middle, and end, and there's no compromising of intense riffs and shredding solos as a result. That song is the obvious highlight of this disc, and the 'Witch should try to recreate what they did there (as well as on "Baptized in Flames" from the Beyond the Permafrost album) in the future.
I've sold this album somewhat short by complaining about its shortcomings, because it's still a solid thrash record with a nonstop barrage of riffs and no shortage of moments that demand headbanging. I'm just hoping that the next time Skeletonwitch release a full-length, the awesome riffs and solos evolve into awesome songs somewhat more often. It's not as if I'm going to stop worshiping the 'Witch in the meantime.
I've been Breathing The Fire for a couple of weeks now, and the new Skeletonwitch is definitely a burning, spicy, molten feast of metal. I can't get enough. Boatloads of ink have been spilled trying to describe the Skeletonwitch sound. I think the most commonly used adjective is "old school". It's still the most appropriate. Their Myspace page says that Skeletonwitch "sound like Bay Area Thrash and NWOBHM with elements of Black and Viking Metal." That sounds about right to me.
When I threw on the album for the first time, Breathing The Fire instantly made me think of Megadeth's Peace Sells. The riffage on "Submit to the Suffering" and "Longing for Domination" brought to mind the completely unhinged spirit of "The Conjuring," "Good Mourning/Black Friday" and "My Last Words." That's a pretty impressive compliment. Breathing The Fire doesn't reach the iconic nature of Peace Sells, but it really is a massively entertaining treasure trove of riffs.
Beyond the Permafrost was an awesome album only occasionally marred by leads that couldn't keep up with the rest of the barreling war machine. That problem is completely rectified on Breathing The Fire. Nate Garnett and Scott Hedrick seem to have perfected the delicate balance between speed, chaos and shredding. In addition, the band's songwriting skills have improved quite a bit. I can tell all of these tracks apart. The choruses and riffs are floating around in my head constantly. There is perhaps less melodic death and more thrash on Breathing The Fire. But why even try to parse our the pieces? Skeletonwitch have forged their own sound from all the best parts of old school metal. This shit just rules, hard.
Chance Garnett seems to have upped the ante with his vocals. The sometimes black, sometimes death screaming has an undeniable and unique character. Every song has a memorable chorus or some line that you'll undoubtedly yell along to.
The production is guitar-centric, and appropriate to the music. I do get occasional twinges of regret about the guitar tone. I sometimes wish it had a bit more crunch, but it doesn't really harm the overall experience. I can balance that out in my head with the relief that this isn't an over-compressed shit-fest. The drums and bass gets ample space, and propel this thing along at ludicrous speed. Breathing the Fire never stops moving. That would be a bad thing if it weren't driven by a myriad of fantastic rhythms.
The melodic guitar sections on Breathing The Fire are probably more subtle than on the previous album. There's still plenty of melody, but I think it's used to greater effect on these tracks. "Stand Fight and Die" is positively anthemic.
Skeletonwitch play directly to the "less is more" aesthetic that's currently appealing to me in metal. Short songs, riff driven, simple production, pure metal. Two guitars, bass, drums, vocals and that's it. This pure approach is our last defense against the wretched proliferation of mash-up metal that's currently occurring.
From what I hear, Skeletonwitch are absolutely amazing live. I've not yet had the pleasure of seeing them in person, but I plan on remedying that in October when they play with The Black Dahlia Murder at The Chance.
So yes, this album fucking slaughters start to finish. I'm quite sure it will be on my year-end list. I can't stop listening to it.
Originally posted here: http://atanamar.blogspot.com/