Review Summary: Bored of all your Metallica, Slayer, and every Gothenburg melo-death album that you own? Skeletonwitch will cure your hankering for a ‘somewhat’ fresh approach to throwback thrash/ melo-death metal bands.
Its actually funny when you think about how many bands that are out there, trying to breathe life into some good old metal from key era’s of the genre that spawned too many copycats to count. Trivium’s The Crusade
tried and failed miserably at reviving Metallica’s Master of Puppets
days by completely rehashing everything and falling extremely short with originality. A little off the metal topic and looking at rock, a newer band named Airbourne put out an album called Runnin’ Wild
and should be put under investigation for plagiarizing AC/DC. Then there’s Skeletonwitch; a band that obviously grew up in an era of heavy metal that saw kids picking up guitars and trying out their chops against a slew of thrash, NWOBHM and melo-death bands. But what makes Skeletonwitch unique compared to a bunch of rehash bands that stumble over the problem of lifting the same identical “God Damn” riff over and over again? Skeletonwitch do the metal sub genre hopping with ease and don’t cater to specifics.
First and foremost, these guys are competent musicians who know their metal. And when I say they know their metal, “Oh boy do they ever know their heavy metal”! Contained within Beyond the Permafrost
is a cache of heavy metal riffs that made the genre what it is today. The album contains songs that are filled with excellent guitar skills and pummeling drums that bring to mind the early 80’s days of thrash. Dual guitar leads and melodic hooks bring to mind NWOBHM and the Gothenburg scene; metal artists who wanted a little more than just brutality to their music. Skeletonwitch combine these sub genres with ease and finesse. But do these elements make Beyond the Permafrost
a winner in the metal revival circles? Not exactly.
Right from the opening track ‘Upon Black Wings’, fast thrash riffs scream forth while a nice little Slayer solo backs up the rhythm guitar. Not even a minute later, the song changes into a galloping lead that sounds like it belongs on The Jester Race
. Within the first two minutes and forty-one seconds, you can certainly notice the number of sub genres Skeletonwitch utilize to hone in on their finely tuned songs. ‘Baptized In Flames’ starts out in a perfect melodic fashion. A tremolo picked melody opens up the song followed up with another Gothenburg influenced riff that actually sounds interesting and not regurgitated. ‘Within My Blood’ shows off the bands love for NWOBHM, reviving some of those classic dual leads featured on such albums such as Painkiller
and Piece of Mind
. ‘Feast Upon Flesh’ awakens a black metal spirit but only merely touches on this sub-genre, going for a blackened/ death metal sound in the vein of Storm of the Light's Bane
. As you can already tell, the number of bands and sub genres that have been listed above are only skimming the surface.
Keeping this in mind, the band does not win a great deal of points, simply because they wear their influences on their shoulders too proudly. Instead of taking all of their influences and mixing them into a complete, original idea, Skeletonwitch make it too easy to pick apart the sub genres contained within their songs. This in turn makes it far too easy to categorize Skeletonwitch as a ‘unoriginal’ band. Metalheads (like myself) who like a little original spice in their tunes, might cry “Copy Cats” for their overuse of genre hopping and lack of originality. Still, I have to give them credit where credit is due. The amount of sub genres this band covers is staggering. For their efforts and ideas put into their music, despite it being somewhat unoriginal, they really know how to keep things interesting by not catering to one type of sub genre. Beyond the Permafrost
wins on a level for sounding like a band who is having a good time covering all of their favourite metal tunes.