posted on 10/2011 By:
Skeletonwitch, despite extreme levels of burly sweatiness, are one of the most huggable bands in heavy metal. There's something oddly adorable about their stage presence (consisting of a Pabst-swilling madman bounding and weaving between a trio of hair-swathed statues), their lovable adherence to overtly-metal cliches, and their decidedly American take on blackened thrash. You just want to pet them...and put them in a mayonaisse jar...with a stick and a leaf...to recreate what they're used to...
As fun and undeniably solid as Skeletonwitch has been over the past few years, they've always been much more vital onstage than on record. Beyond the Permafrost was a cool exhibit, but when stacked against some of the European pureveyors of the black / thrash / death hybridization (e.g., Deathchain, Desaster, Destroyer 666), their overall aesthetic comes across as a bit lightweight. That's a symptom of having a Bay Area influence rather than a Teutonic one, however; it's never been a secret that West Coast-style thrash (via Ohio, in this case) works better amidst a sweaty, beer-clutching throng than in a solitary, headphoned rage.
Forever Abomination doesn't showcase a changed Skeletonwitch; they still do their Skeletonwitch thing, and they do it pretty damn well. Chance Garnette still sounds like Angela Gossow with testicles; the quick-hit thrash riffing is more mosh-inducing than menacing; and the blackened / tremolo parts are used as intelligent punctuations rather than digressive crutches. The band's riff-after-riff philosophy is still firmly intact, and like most bands of this ilk (Goatwhore, anyone?), their success hinges on the quality of each nugget hurled. Thankfully, Forever Abomination brings the wreckage, via a slight changing of the guard. Reminiscent of Sammy Duet's vast improvement after recruiting Zack Simmons, guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick benefit greatly from the stellar footwork of new drummer Dustin Boltjes (last seen as the savior of Demiricous' otherwise shrug-worthy Two), and his pummeling beats help craft some of the most complete, dynamic compositions of the band's short career.
The moments of glory arise where they've injected a melodic and thematic maturity that belies the single-minded goofiness of their "metal as fuck, bro" lyrical bent. "Of Ash and Torment" is nearly perfect in structure, opening with a streamrolling thrash riff before transistioning into a powerful gallop. The track closes with a somber, almost Dissection-esque passage, running an exhilarating gauntlet amidst their three-minute template. This blackened knack for melody is fully-fleshed a few tracks later on "The Infernal Resurrection," which opens and closes with a rock-ish riff that manages to sound fifteen times heavier than it actually is.
Intelligent turns like these elevate Forever Abomination from the ranks of the merely solid into the genuinely memorable. While Skeletonwitch will never be confused with anything genre-defining (or defying), there’s something to be said for being ardently blue-collar and kicking ass at the job at hand. Forever Abomination is abundantly peppered with wry transistions and markedly bolstered by Boltjes’ drumming; the result is a deceptively clever offering from a band that is fast becoming one of heavy metal’s most reliable. Switch it off and crank it up.
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Breathing The Fire
Beyond The Permafrost
Worship The Witch
At One With The Shadows