Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom EP
Label: Prosthetic Records
Release Date: August 19th, 2016
Since 2003, Skeletonwitch has slowly climbed their way out of the underground and full on into the thrash metal scene. They’ve been able to accomplish this with the aid of their uniquely underrated blackened thrash sound, amazing work ethic (constant touring and promotion), and implementation of their musical talent within every one of their releases. Anyone and everyone knows the name when it is spoken and for good reason.
In 2014, it was feared that the band would be going on a hiatus or even worse, disbanding, due to internal issues. These issues resulted in then vocalist Chance Garnette leaving the band and Andy Horn (ex-Cannabis Corpse) taking his place during their European tour until a long-term replacement could be found. Luckily enough, Skeletonwitch found their new vocalist, Adam Clemens (Wolvhammer, ex-Veil of Maya) and began spreading rumors of a new release being worked on behind the scenes. Late 2015/early 2016 rolled around with these rumors being true, followed by the release of a new single, “Well of Despair”, that was met with mixed emotions and opinions. Personally, I was glad to see the band still continuing with their passion and I found the new single enjoyable and interesting. This judgment was cemented even further after seeing the band with Clemens at the forefront when they were on tour with Tribulation, High On Fire, and Abbath. His performance was beyond commendable and made me even more excited to hear the new release.
After waiting impatiently for what seemed like forever, it is finally here. The Apothic Gloom presents fans with a renewed Skeletonwitch full of vigor, passion, and a need to start pushing boundaries. If the last remark even slightly discourages you, don’t let it. Skeletonwitch aren’t the kind to throw you into the deep end right off the bat.
The title track starts off the EP with a somber approach composed only of guitar that evolves into an even more solemn state. The darkened atmospheres are still apparent in their songwriting, with many more familiarities coming to fruition once the guitars begin to ramp up and fall into that recognized melodic attack. Clemens joins in, placing the icing on top of the cake with his dissonant vocal style that one can easily contrast to Chance’s more dominant style. These differences mean little at the end of the day, as the overall sound still sounds like the group’s trademark that they’ve made over the years.
“Well Of Despair” is another example of the aforementioned, but with Clemens expanding on his personal sound even more. When hearing this during a live performance, you will most definitely shit bricks. The heavy rhythms of bassist Evan Linger and Dustin Boltjes are crushing. “Well Of Despair” brings forth a gnarly amount of aggression.
“Black Waters” slows it down and summons forth vast amounts of black metal riffage from Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick. While not surprising to veteran listeners of the Witch, it still perks up the ears when the tremolo works its magic. Don’t forget the presence of that crisp guitar solo near the end of the track either.
“Red Death, White Light” is easily my favorite out of the four. Holy shit does this give one goosebumps. I’m hoping to hear the band dabble more in this kind of material with their upcoming releases, as it fuses their present sound with that dissonant and endless despair of black metal that most blackened thrash bands steer clear of. This is a great example of bands taking chances to improve/build upon their identity even further. A. MUST. LISTEN.
The Apothic Gloom only gives fans a small taste of what’s to come and is the only major flaw to be present here. Regardless, Skeletonwitch have made a statement, showing that they won’t be knocked down so easily. They are here to stay and will continue to rule over their domain for many more years to come.