I honestly struggled a bit with this new SKELETONWITCH album Devouring Radiant Light at first. Wait, let me just say this. If you’re looking for the in-your-face assault of Serpents Unleashed (still my favorite!) and its predecessors, then don’t even bother. But, if you’re interested in seeing a band spread its wings and venture into new territory while making it look easy? Then this is the record for you. This group has been categorized as Blackened Thrash Metal for as long as I can remember, and that was just fine with me. But with this release they have done more than just dip their toes in the Black Metal end of the pool. They’ve done a swan dive into it. And you know what? That’s FINE.
Is this a full-on Black Metal record? No. But does it have a ton of leanings into said genre? Oh yeah. Some of the songs have real atmospheric intros, a couple are rather lengthy, and there is dissonance in abundance. Also, the songs themselves are very, very good for the most part. This record is almost like a coming out party for the whole band, not just vocalist Adam Clemans. There is an electricity and a renewed sense of purpose with songs like “The Luminous Sky” and “When Paradise Fades”. Guitarists Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette still unleash Hell but there is more melody to go around this time. Again, that’s a good thing.
On the other side of that coin, “Fen of Shadows” starts things off in majestic fashion with opening guitar strains that just hang in the air, as if from the clouds above. When the song gets going in earnest it’s a goddamn free for all, the band truly flexing its collective muscle, and good on them for doing so. “Temple of the Sun” is one that will surely bang the head that doesn’t bang, while title track “Devouring Radiant Light” employs a stealthy, creeping intro that sucks you in right away. And that’s because you just HAVE to know what happens next. And what happens next is greatness in spades. This is one of the album’s brightest spots.
“Carnarium Eternal” is the closest thing we get to the SKELETONWITCH of old on this disc. It’s an asskicker for sure, and another one I enjoyed immensely. Closer “Sacred Soil” is a perfect piece of Blackened Death/Thrash Metal that is without a doubt one of my favorites. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kurt Ballou (CONVERGE guitarist and all-around production God) and the stellar work he did on this record. The band clearly should use no one else, amiright? At the end of the day SKELETONWITCH have not only reinvented themselves with Devouring Radiant Light, but they’ve also set a new bar. I look forward to seeing where they go from here, and I ESPECIALLY look forward to their live shows!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Devouring Radiant Light”, “Carnarium Eternal”, “The Luminous Sky”, “When Paradise Fades”