Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed
Release Date: October 29, 2013
10 years ago, in Athens, Ohio, Skeletonwitch had formed and steadily began their journey from the deepest crevices of the underground to their current state among the elite of Prosthetic Records. Although I’m not too familiar with their first record, At One With The Shadows, I do have some experience with their other works while they have been signed with Prosthetic. Beyond the Permafrost, their 2007 effort, intrigued me from the start and they have since been on my radar when it comes to anticipated releases.
Skeletonwitch plays a unique style of blackened thrash that also mixes in some of the 80’s flair as well as an old school doom metal vibe. Being that hybrid-style loving listener that I am, Skeletonwitch have always been able to keep my ears happy as they progress more and more with each effort. Now, they are set to keep their momentum going with their newest work, Serpents Unleashed, which follows their 2011 effort, Forever Abomination, one of my favorites of that year. I had no question that these guys would be able to deliver another solid effort.
Serpents Unleashed starts off with the title track, which may be one of the most intense tracks of the record that immediately sets the tone for the rest of the 30 minutes that ensure afterward. Dustin Boltjes destroys everything in his path with his amazing speed and consistency on the drums. Although one of the five major pieces of the band, Dustin becomes one of the more integral parts of this record that keeps me more involved until the finish. Bassist Evan Linger is utilized very well in the album. Most bassists in thrash bands are nearly inaudible but Evan creates a whole new spectrum of playing I don’t hear often. He is used to accent the guitar and rhythm sections but he also ends up creating his own grooves throughout this track among others.
“Beneath Dead Leaves” shows off more of the band working together to create a groove feel. Again, the bass is another noticeable characteristic and should be as I feel the thrash genre doesn’t utilize the instrument as well as it could. Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick provide some weighted and beefy blackened riffs throughout that are soon finished off with one of their ever famous guitar solos, which also occur throughout Serpents Unleashed.
Another element that I’ve always loved about Skeletonwitch, is the vocalist, Chance Garnette, who has become one of my favorite vocalists of the genre. He demonstrates strong songwriting and phrasing in “I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived)”, and this is made apparent with how catchy it is from start to finish.
“From A Cloudless Sky” is another demonstration of blackened influence that transitions fluidly to more thrash detailed style of guitar work. This is a perfect example of how far this band has come together to be able to write interesting pieces and still keep that addictive catchiness.
“Burned From Bone” was the first to be released from the album and came as a total surprise of being a free download. If you want a taste of the record, definitely jump on that opportunity, as it isn’t a track that will disappoint as you adventure through.
“Unending, Everliving” is one of my favorites, with it’s change of pace introduction and building groove that throws the best of Skeletonwitch at you. The lead work stands out above the band as it takes control of a cascading waves of rhythm that makes you want to hit the repeat button just to hear it again.
“Blood on the Flesh, Blood on My Hands” digs heavily into the dirt instrumentally and contains some of the grittier moments of the album. Around the 1:20 mark, the instrumental members of the band take over with a solid bass guitar rhythm that overtakes for the most part. The other members join in slowly overlaying themselves into the mix, creating a wall of groovy bliss with quite the darkened undertone.
“This Evil Embrace” showcases more of Dustin’s drumming prowess and stamina with an onslaught of drums that occur all over this three and a half-minute blackened melodic thrash piece. This ends up being another favorite, due to the huge amount of melody as well as the duration, as Skeletonwitch rarely write songs that pass the three-minute mark.
As you can guess, I love pretty much everything about this album. Not only have these guys been consistent over the years, but they have also kept to their roots and only get better at their craft as the years pass by. Every song, every melody, every note just screams metal and everything good about it. I may be exaggerating this a little, but in all honesty, you don’t see many bands carrying on as strongly as Skeletonwitch does.
In Serpents Unleashed, there isn’t much progression in their sound from the previous record, but you can’t help notice the subtle changes that differ. The solid production, tightened instrumentals, and effective songwriting are the elements that elevated this opus to one of the top albums of 2013. We shall see how the rest of the year fares, but I don’t see Skeletonwitch budging from where they are set for a long while.
Rating – 9.5/10