Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Vicious for anger, melodic for beer - 90%

gasmask_colostomy, August 17th, 2017

I'm looking for pissed off music tonight and although Skeletonwitch are a touch too melodic to really make me feel like someone is smashing stuff in my brain, there's enough frenetic energy and bone-snapping time changes in Beyond the Permafrost that I won't complain too much. Also, a little catchiness makes it easier to drink beer at the same time, so prepare yourself for this review to lose all sense of structure after the second paragraph.

I used to have a really stupid prejudice against Skeletonwitch, which was that I didn't like them because their songs were too short. You can laugh if you like because that is pretty retarded. You see, I believed that any song under 2:30 couldn't possibly contain enough content to make it worth listening to (grindcore, that's one in the eye for you), while the only albums I regularly listen to with sub-three minute songs are by Static-X and Slayer. Both the reason for and the answer to that prejudice are contained in those two references and it's reassuring to know that Beyond the Permafrost goes much closer to Reign in Blood than Shadow Zone, which despite having regular rotation on my Ipod admittedly doesn't have the brains of most other kinds of music I like. Slayer managed to keep the songs brief because of two reasons - speed and concision - and those are the same two reasons why this album succeeds. There is almost no fat to be found whatsoever, most songs getting brutally to the point within the first 10 seconds and that point being nailed home without needing to repeat the same sections too many times.

When you're pissed off, that's an excellent feature for your soundtrack to have, since you don't really have the patience to sit through long build-ups or choruses milked till the udder bleeds, plus there's the added bonus that these guys really know how to change direction on a dime and go with whatever change is made for the rest of the song if necessary. If you're looking for a name for that it's unpredictability. The manner in which 'Sacrifice for the Slaughter God' leaps off its chuggy tracks after about a minute, bursts into a frantic melodic black metal riff and ploughs straight on into a glorious solo doesn't need to be described twice to make you want to hear it for yourself, nor do the ideal hooks of 'Baptized in Flame', or the flat-out icy rifforama of 'Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery', and so on. That of course means that we are dealing with some very gifted instrumentalists, especially the drummer Derrick Nau, who gets so much of a workout with both arms and legs that he won't be able to scratch his nose or walk to the bathroom until next week, while the guitarists prove that sometimes speed is everything provided that it can be balanced with some slower sections for contrast.

The only sticking points I can imagine people having for this album is Chance Garnette and the melodic guitar work. If you don't like the singer's low and grubby voice then you'll be glad to learn that he's out of the band now, but he has a remarkable gurgly velocity to his delivery that suits the thrashing pace and the suddenness of his bandmembers' movements. He doesn't waste words either, allowing plenty of time for the guitars to do their own thing and giving a few death metal roars a good whack to improve on the visceral quality of some of the riffs. Most people will tell you that Skeletonwitch sit at the divide between thrash and melodeath, but I'm not so sure, not only because of Garnette's unusual voice but also because of the lack of thrashy techniques the band utilize and the frostiness illuminating more than half the album. Thus, I would put the band in a weird sort of speed/black hybrid, though I would add back in the picking style of a band like Arsis, which can be heard on the technical sweep-picking heaven of 'Fire from the Sky', not to mention several other feats of terrific riffing action. Then there are other interesting markers to other bands, such as 'Remains of the Defeated', which is basically the opening of a Witchery song (I think it's 'Omens') but a little cooler and the Aura Noir intro to 'Feast Upon Flesh', while some of the more fun songs like 'Upon Black Wings' are reminiscent of Toxic Holocaust at their arse-kicking best.

So that's the point where the structure melted away, though at least I've remembered that I need to say something about the melodic guitar work. Of course there's nothing wrong with melodic guitar work on a speed/extreme metal album, but perhaps some people might be expecting something heavier and more atmospheric than the classic lead that joins us partway through 'Upon Black Wings' or the surprisingly thoughtful solo in 'Vengeance Will Be Mine'. However, if you're a naysayer for that reason, that's about as stupid as disliking a band because of their song lengths...which I've come to realize is quite a fucked way of judging musical quality, especially because 'Within My Blood' is certainly not the finest song on Beyond the Permafrost despite its "normal" length. Now comes the point when I should answer about which songs are the best and I'm going to go with the three that I picked out in the third paragraph, plus the excellent 'Fire from the Sky'. That said, I've also found one advantage of these piddly little songs - if one of them sucks, it's over before you need to skip it. And, in fact, I didn't skip anything. Good stuff for beer and anger.