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The Debut - 69%

DawnoftheShred, April 25th, 2009

Chances are that if you’ve heard of Ohio’s breakout metal alchemists Skeltonwitch, you’ve heard their second album Beyond the Permafrost. This is because BtP is the album that’s gotten wider distribution and it’s the one that, if you have it, you probably got it immediately after they blew your fucking ass away on tour. However there is an out-of-print debut album that exists with almost no circulation and it shows that the band were just as killer back in ’04 as they are today. However, unlike BtP, it is non-essential listening and may be a bit of a disappointment for those that have taken the time to track the bugger down.

As one of the many who discovered Skeletonwitch through Beyond the Permafrost, I can fully attest that listening to At One with the Shadows takes a little getting used to. Despite this being considered a full-length debut, the production is demo quality and it’s only thirty minutes in length. But everything the listener would expect is present, and for those that aren’t familiar with the band, it really is a little bit of everything. The melodic soloing and harmony riffs of power metal, the blasting drums, shrieking vocals, and dissonant tremolo riffing of black metal, and even some of the growled vocals and trademark riffs of melodic death metal: these all make an appearance in just about every song on here. The idea is not entirely new: your various deathcore bands scratched the surface of what is done here, but Skeletonwitch present the genre-blending concept in a much more fluid manner, without the clean vocals, emo lyrics, breakdowns, and obvious pilfering that those other bands are often guilty of. At One with the Shadows has its moments where it’s almost too melodic to accommodate their extreme side (the various acoustic bits that show up; some of the harmonies), but it’s a mostly pure, very headbangable metal album.

Really, as the previous reviewer agreed, the only things that hurt this are the production and the length. The raw guitar and drum sound enhances the extreme metal element, but when the melodic sections show up, they’re weaker and even awkward at times. The length issue is more subjective. I like Skeletonwitch’s music; therefore I’d rather hear more of it than less of it. Additionally, three of the songs (“Within My Blood,” “Baptized in Flames,” “Vengeance Will Be Mine”) ended up being re-recorded for Beyond the Permafrost, and since I discovered that album first, I’ve really only gotten to hear six new songs by acquiring this album: a mere twenty minutes of fresh material. However for those that are hearing this album first, it’s obviously a moot point.

The final word: don’t pass it up if you find it, but don’t spend too much time hunting for it either. Not because it’s generally weak, but because Beyond the Permafrost takes the whole idea of this album and brings it to another level.