I haven’t been a Skeletonwitch fan for very long. I always knew of them, but it wasn’t till I had a conversation with Michael Leon of Havok last summer that I decided to pick up their stuff, so thanks Michael! I agree with the general consensus that 2007’s Beyond the Permafrost is near-perfect, and I will also agree that 2011’s Forever Abomination is pretty fucking great, too! So new album Serpents Unleashed, out October 29 via Prosthetic Records was definitely something I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.
The first thing that grabbed my attention, besides the overall ferocity, is the crystal clear production thanks to Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, who really seems to have an ear for getting the best mix possible. Everyone can be heard loud and clear, especially bassist Evan Linger, which is a nice change from previous works. Chance Garnette’s hellish growls clearly rise above the fray on every song, most notably on first single and video “I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)” and the guitar work from Scott Hedrick and Chance’s younger brother Nate Garnette is unbelievably good. And of course drummer Dustin Boltjes pretty much lays siege to his kit throughout this short (30 minutes) but hard-hitting record.
Opening title track “Serpents Unleashed” is 2:17 of non-stop intensity that sets the tone for the rest of the album, while “Beneath Dead Leaves” piles on the double-kick drums in spades. But at the same time, it allows the song to find a groove that immediately makes it a standout. The opening guitar lines of “From a Cloudless Sky” definitely reminded me of Amon Amarth, who they’ll be touring with in 2014 (Can’t wait!!), much to my happiness. And the last 30 seconds features some of the best soloing on the entire thing.
Now if you’re anything like me and want new stuff “now, Now, NOW!!” then you got “Burned From Bone” via a special text download over the summer. And you probably also realized after one listen that this was gonna be one hell of an album, right? Well, next song “Unending Ever Living” further cements that point, trust me. “Blade On the Flesh” is another speed demon, and should cause some neck injuries pronto. Of course my absolute favorite is “This Evil Embrace”. This is largely due to it just having so much melody and punch that I can’t get enough of it, and I pray that it’s in the setlist come January here in Dallas.
“Unwept” is another song that features Linger’s bass high up in the mix, matching Boltjes stride for stride and note for note. The deeper I get into this record the more anxious I am to see them live, I’m tellin’ ya! A dark intro precedes the album’s longest track (4:20), “More Cruel Than Weak” which is another killer piece of work. Closer “Born of the Light” is a perfect send-off, ending 30 minutes of unbridled aggression and blackened thrash. I swear Skeletonwitch get better with every album. Pick up Serpents Unleashed and see for yourself.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM