Review Summary: Skeletonwitch are back, and still bringing the cheese with the same consistency.
As I sit at my computer, listening to Ohio-based Skeletonwitch’s stream of their new album, Breathing the Fire
, I can’t help but wonder: Will this band ever be taken as seriously as their blackened thrash contemporaries Absu and Destroyer 666, both of whom released quality albums this year? One look at the album cover, a skeleton bellowing fire in a sun-scorched bone yard (while holding skulls in both hands, on top of everything else!), gives me a resounding “no.” Skeletonwitch are not concerned with making any grand artistic statements, challenging the confines of extreme metal, or even showing off the mind-bending musicianship that a lot of metal bands seem concerned with nowadays. This five-piece is only concerned with having a blast, playing short, cheesy, but most importantly fun songs.
Chance Garnett – Vocals
Nick Garnett – Guitar
Scott Hedrick – Guitar
Evan Linger – Bass
Derrick Nau – Drums
Let me get this out of the way first: If you listened to Skeletonwitch’s 2007 album, Beyond the Permafrost
, then you don’t need to read this review. Breathing the Fire
is not a progression from Permafrost
(although the contrast between ice and fire is kind of cool and almost certainly not a coincidence). The albums are almost interchangeable. The only difference between the two is that Breathing the Fire
has slightly rawer production, giving it a thrashier edge than its more melodic predecessor. The only variation in the Skeletonwitch sound is the quiet outro to “Repulsive Salvation,” which is the highlight of the album.
The plus side of all this is that Beyond the Permafrost
was a very enjoyable listen, and Breathing the Fire
offers more of what made Permafrost
a great album. The abundant guitar leads and harmonies are catchy and fun. The vocals fit perfectly, and Chance Garnett has just enough variation to keep the listener’s attention. It’s only a matter of time before he attempts to sing on an album, (like Proscriptor did on Absu’s Tara). Derrick Nau’s drumming is not virtuoso-level, but he suits the music and has a cool drum intro on “…And into the Flame.” The bass-playing, while unremarkable, is more audible than most bands associated with black metal prefer.
In a year in which Mastodon releases an album with no harsh vocals, maudlin of the Well unveils an album of avant-garde classical and prog rock songs that were supposedly written only in Toby Driver’s head a decade ago, and Between the Buried and Me prepares to release a progressive epic to rival Colors, the metal world needs bands like Skeletonwitch. Bands that don’t take themselves seriously, don’t try to be groundbreaking, and just focus on writing good songs. If you want to immerse yourself in music for a month and look for new musical heroes, don’t even look at this album. But if you just need a solid listen to get yourself through the day, check out Breathing the Fire