By Justin Dettle at 6:41 AM Friday, October 21st 2011
Dettle reviews fucked up thrash metal for us when there are fucked up thrash metal albums worth talking about.
For those of you who haven’t had the chance to check out Ohio’s own Skeletonwitch, the band specializes in modern thrash metal (or blackened thrash, if you wanna take the time to make that distinction). Their signature sound combines the speedy side of thrash with the tones and tremolo picked harmonies of black metal, modern shredding and other extreme metal elements infused into straight-forward thrashers and short epics. This month brings us their 4th major release (third for Prosthetic Records) entitled Forever Abomination.
In the sea of new thrash metal bands the last decade has brought forth, Skeletonwitch remains one of the most distinguishable here in 2011. Gain-y and grainy, the band’s guitar tone itself is somewhat hard to mistake from others. The powerful, gargling black metal growl supplied by vocalist Chance Garnette is surprisingly memorable as well… making the combination altogether unmistakable. That being said, the new songs are just that; new. Forever Abomination stands out on its own while retaining all of the previous albums’ best attributes.
At a total length of 32 minutes, the album is a few minutes shorter than the previous two. Opening track This Horrifying Force starts out with a few bars of acoustic guitar serving as the album’s intro and becomes a sprawling, mid-tempo melodic black metal rocker (reminiscent of Dissection’s Reinkaos) that concludes with the same acoustic guitar. At 4:10, it’s the album’s longest song… and one of the band’s longest as well. The album continues on gaining momentum with each track.
Single Reduced To The Failure Of Prayer (listen above) starts out with a crash and deep growls over a hammer blast, and continues to emphasize the down beat for a time before the riffs move on and set the song’s pace. The song ends rather abruptly, on lead guitar and at it’s maximum tempo… which makes for a seamless transition into the faster Of Ash And Torment. But for the breakdown with its welcomed ringing chords, this song and the next are classic Skeletonwitch thrashers. While the fifth song, Erased And Forgotten starts out quick with blasting and tremolo picking… it smoothes out into a melodic gallop at its midpoint before building its speed back up.
The Infernal Resurrection is another very interesting moment on the album, as it opens on more ringing chords at a mid-tempo and then displays the band’s comfort at speed… then breaks down briefly and rings those opening chords some more in conclusion. Moments like this one supply a measured amount of breathing room for this album, and surely translate into widening the options the band has for their already immense live set. Rejoice In Misery thrashes right out of the gate and maintains a good upper tempo before slowing somewhat halfway through and keeping a brisk melodic pace for it’s spreading guitar lines to ring out fully.
One of the main things that Forever Abomination has over the others is how often big, full chords are allowed to ring out. This combined with a more refined drum sound and more polished drumming from new drummer Dustin Boltjes, makes this release overall the most melodic in Skeletonwitch’s discography. This is most apparent in the next and most varied song on the album, Cleaver Of Souls. It’s latter half is one big breakdown, with all the goods you’d expect from a virtuous metal band.
The last three songs are thrashers, none of which is much of a closer. While the last song, My Skin Of Deceit has ample slow blasting a-la slower black metal, good pace and a moment of the singing dual guitar leads that fans have come to love this band for… it’s also the shortest on the album, with an ending that’s dry and abrupt. The last two albums ended with singing, sprawling epics… top notch closers. However, they started very differently as well… so while some of us (myself at least) may have been hoping for more of the same, it isn’t enough to disappoint.
All in all, Skeletonwitch has managed to put out nothing but refined music. Forever Abomination stands as a good follow-up to the straight-forward Breathing The Fire and in my opinion brings a fresh feel for the band.
Whenever a respectable extreme metal band releases a new album that doesn’t fully impress me (coughMegadethcoughMorbidAngelcough)… I don’t bother to write about it. In my opinion, these relatively unpopular bands we love deserve only our praises or lack thereof. Plus, there is a horde of metalheads that will voice their thoughts regardless. That being said, anyone reading this has my guarantee that I am impressed with any album I review.
Skeletonwitch has delivered greatness yet again, full of speed and furious as always. The black metal tinge is still strong, and with ample legato in the leads and song-writing that isn’t at all stagnant. Forever Abomination is an album that all Skeletonwitch fans should make haste to hear, and all extreme metal lovers should at least check out.