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Beyond a craze of constant Big 4 worship. - 83%

hells_unicorn, June 23rd, 2011

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.