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Another band frequently associated with the modern thrash metal movement, Skeletonwitch has arguably become the most popular blackened thrash group in the United States. They’ve gotten on some major tours like Ozzfest and Glenn Danzig’s Blackest of the Black spectacle and also managed to garner some support from Adult Swim. While this is the band’s fourth official studio album, the rather bizarre status of their 2004 debut makes this feel more like their third. It is also the first album to feature former Demiricous drummer Dustin Boltjes and serves as a solid continuation of their signature style.
As many have noted, Skeletonwitch does blend a lot of subgenres together when forging their sound. In addition to using a lot of thrashy tempos and black metal influence on the vocals and drumming, they also show a nice melodic side in the form of classic metal guitar harmonizing and a few melodic death metal flirtations. Of course, there have been variations between releases and this one certainly has its own tropes. While 2007’s Beyond the Permafrost had more flourishes of melody and 2009’s Breathing the Fire was something of a modern day Reign in Blood, this effort appears to be between the two while still showing off fast tempos and short song lengths.
But like every other Skeletonwitch album, the band members are truly firing on all cylinders. Vocalist Chance Garnette is easily the band’s standout member as he shows a lot of dexterity between his black metal shriek and death metal rumble. The twin guitars also sound great and Boltjes manages to fit in quite well. The bass appears to be one of the few things that could be nitpicked; it doesn’t have that much of a presence throughout but even it gets a chance to shine on the introduction of “Cleaver of Souls.” Some more extreme fans may also find the production to be a bit too polished but I still think it’s a good way to work these elements together and gives everything a chilling flavor.
But if there’s one thing you can say about the Witch, it’s that their songwriting is quite consistent. Like Breathing the Fire before it, just about every song on here is fast and intense. As a result, a few songs tend to be rather interchangeable but some songs still find ways to stand out.
On one hand, there are plenty of experimental moments on here. “This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” is a bit more elaborate than its four-minute duration would suggest as its thrashing is bookended by some nifty eastern riffs and acoustic work. In addition, “The Infernal Resurrection” is probably the most accessible song on the album and “Cleaver Of Souls” has a mellow outro that reminds one of the end of “Repulsive Salvation.” Of course, there are other things that channel the band’s black metal side and take on much stronger drumming. “Reduced To The Failure Of Prayer” and the closing “My Skin of Deceit” are both noteworthy tracks with the latter showing off some rather jumpy guitar parts.
But like every other Witch album, it is somewhat hard to tell if this one needs to be longer than its thirty-two minute running time. While there is not a single bad song on here and several are able to give the listener sufficient beatings with less than three minutes at a time to spare, it does feel like a few songs could afford an extra minute or two to really stand out and it is technically the shortest album in their discography. Having said that, it does eliminate a bunch of filler so it is really a matter of personal taste…
All in all, this album reinforces the notion that Skeletonwitch has just about everything going for them. Their sound is unique, the production is great, and the band members are really great at what they do. However, with the songwriting still being a little same-ish at times, it feels as though they’re still not quite at the point of releasing their finest effort. From there, this is a very easy album to recommend to fans of thrash, black, death, and every metal subgenre in between. But for the rest of us, this is an enjoyable album that does deserve to be heard. It may not be the album of the year but it does give one something entertaining to listen to while waiting to see what they’ll come up with next.
“This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)”
“Reduced To The Failure of Prayer”
“The Infernal Resurrection”
“Cleaver Of Souls”
“My Skin of Deceit"