28 October 2013
by Pete Long
Some bands like to change their sound from release to release. Other bands stick faithfully to what they know – they’ll change a little here and there, but essentially evolution is slow. Skeletonwitch most definitely fall into the second camp. Serpents Unleashed, Skeletonwitch’s fifth album, is a gristly offering in much the same vein as Forever Abomination and its predecessors.
Skeletonwitch have turned to the production skills of Kurt Ballou, with the result ia denser, darker sound than previous albums, with Evan Linger’s bass given more prominence. Skeletonwitch’s music feels more powerful for it and none of the atmosphere is sacrificed; there are a lot of black metal bands that could learn a lot from listening to this.
Title track ‘Serpents Unleashed’ opens on the charge like an annoyed rhino, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The thrash-inspired riffing of Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick is coldly savage and is complemented well by Chance Garnette’s raspy yet intelligible snarling. All this is propelled forward by Dustin Boltjes’ drumming, showing that he can both blast and know when not to.
But it’s when Skeletonwitch take their foot off the accelerator that they deliver some of the album’s most memorable moments. The elegiac intro of ‘Unending, Everliving’ is a particular standout with its Candlemass vibe. ‘Beneath Dead Leaves’ opens with a very strong black metal influence, while ‘From a Cloudless Sky’ segues seamlessly from an intro that wouldn’t sound out of place on Amon Amarth’s catalogue to an old-school thrash riff. Unfortunately, the solo feels slightly out of place, but that’s one of the few possible criticisms you could level at Skeletonwitch’s songwriting.
Watch the video to ‘I Am Death (Hell Has Arrived)’ by Skeletonwitch:
Serpents Unleashed is unashamedly old school in attitude. No theatrics, no long and thoughtful interludes, no breakdowns. This is an album where everything ties together into a single coherent, idiosyncratic sound. That won’t be for everyone, but Skeletonwitch will continue to attract plenty of fans with this.
Sounds Like: Immortal playing thrash metal
Standout Tracks: Unending, Everliving, Beneath Dead Leaves, I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)