Release DetailsLABEL Prosthetic
RELEASED ON 10/29/2013
Skeletonwitch has officially crossed into “reliable” territory, and are heirs apparent to the crown in their corner of the Metal realms.
I don’t know how much of the old "if it ain’t broke don’t fix it" mantra is consciously incorporated into the lives of Skeletonwitch, but I will point out that Serpents Unleashed is the band's fourth full-length in a row released in October on Prosthetic Records — and every damned year it’s a list-spoiler. Not in a bad way, mind you, but part of your brain needs to leave a semi-tentative spot open for the Ohioans obligatory biennial blackened riff-fest.
Sorta similar in style to Witchtrap and Witchaven and Witchery and other bands miraculously without ‘witch’ in their name, Skeletonwitch rip the skull and backbone from thrash, Predator-style, and decorate that shit using whatever tools suit their fancy. There are shades of forebears, too: bits of Bathory whenever a folky swing or primitive blackness sets in, and drops of Venom to remember the evil fun of it all.
Skeletonwitch returned to Alan Douches and John Baizley (for the recording and artwork, respectively), both of whom had the same duties on the band's sophomore breakthrough, 2007's Beyond the Permafrost. Their filthily accurate thrash is always delivered with exuberant efficiency that relentlessly seeks to improve and expand, year after year, album after album. And while the band seems to be on an endless quest to write as many awesome sub-3 minute songs as possible, when they do reach outside that comfort zone, they still succeed. “Unending Never Living,” “This Evil Embrace,” and “More Cruel than Weak” all boast tasty instrumental intros that remind how Skeletonwitch can work with triumphant riffage or a loose swing or plaintive plucks, turning on a dime and not missing a beat. It’s probably their greatest strength.
The vibrant finger-flaying of Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette has been largely pushed to the forefront over the years, and rightfully so. Their evolving arrangements now sport more complex interplay than ever, and while neither man is excessively flashy, it would be unfair to call them workmanlike. Every album simply gets more streamlined, and now each moment is just a bit more colorful this time around — even playful at times. I attribute much of this change to living-up-to-his-surname bassist Evan Linger. I don’t think any of Skeletonwitch’s four-string axemen have ever maintained this level of presence in the mix; dare I say, Linger is damn near Butler-esque on Serpents Unleashed. There’s plenty of spotlit moments too, like when he and supertight drummer Dustin Boltjes tango in the middle of “Blade on the Flesh,” or as accents burst through at the beginning of “Unwept.”
I wish that particular song felt more complete (maybe call it “Unfinished” …amirite? …amirite? …ugh), but it’s just one of a few wee quibbles. I do hope their overall lyrical depth grows, because after five albums, the burned-flesh-rending-tormented-darkness-soul-dust is starting to feel familiar — even if Chance Garnette still executes some of the most startlingly understandable rasps in the biz. Still, after a decade of busting their asses, they are absolutely no longer novelty. Skeletonwitch has officially crossed into “reliable” territory, and are heirs apparent to the crown in their corner of the Metal realms.
Breathing The Fire
Beyond The Permafrost
Worship The Witch
At One With The Shadows