REVIEW: SKELETONWITCH – “The Apothic Gloom” [EP]
Ah, the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave.Cherry pie, patriotism, baseball, Hollywood and…metal. It’s no news that the country has exported some of the most prominent bands in the heavy metal world, being them widely known acts such as Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica or cult, underground gems such as Crescent Shield, Manilla Road, Pharaoh, and many more. In the middle of the road, between “glorious”commercial supremacy and painful anonymity, lies Skeletonwitch, the 5-piece thrash/death act from the small town of Athens, Ohio. So small that it has less than 24.000 people residing in it (to give you a comparison view, I live in a neighborhood in São Paulo, Brazil, that has close to 80.000 population), so to achieve an international relevance was no small feat to these guys.
With 13 years of activity and 5 full-length albums released, the band continues to grow and gather followers to their ranks by playing a competent mix of thrash and melodic death metal, and this year they’re back with ‘The Apothic Gloom’, first extended-play released by them since the decent ‘Worship the Witch’ back in 2006. With a cool cover-art and featuring four songs divided into 20:51 minutes, this EP will most likely give you a good run for your money, and will come out (or came out, depending on when you’re reading this) on August 19th via Prosthetic Records. Skeletonwitch have changed a bit of their sound since their debut ‘At One With The Shadows’, adding a lot more thrash to their original Children of Bodom-styled melodeath, as well as some crunchy influences in the riff department in the likes of Amon Amarth, which I welcome. ‘The Apothic Gloom’ follows the path of its predecessors with furious yet melodic atmosphere, all thanks to the riff selection and the good – while not particularly unique – vocal approach of debut singer Adam Clemans (Shaidar Logoth, Wolvhammer, ex-Iron Thrones);
The EP begins with the title-track, starting in an acoustic and haunting intro that slowly bursts into a classic Skeletonwitch tune full of solos and broken tempos. The mix between the aggressiveness of the double-pedal drumming – which often makes for characteristic death metal passages – and the ability to change swiftly from scream to growl by Clemans make the song a worthy opener. Follow-up “Well of Despair” punches its way through the speakers with fast and brutal riffs accompanied by yet another great performance by drummer Dustin Boltjes, while longtime and founding members Nate “N8 Feet Under” Garnette and Scott Hendrick rip their guitars with great proficiency. In the middle portion of the song we can clearly see the thrash influence mentioned before, which makes the track diversified and fun. “Black Waters” is the grooviest song of the bunch, and while it’s every bit as fast and aggressive as the other tunes, is also very unique. The main reason for that is the different sound mixing that made the bass lines by Evan Linger louder and powerful. “Red Death, White Light” closes the album at 07:12 minutes long and illustrates well the Amon Amarth influence in the riffs and atmosphere. It also features a small change of pace in the first half and the chorus, going from fast to mid-pace.
There’s a little bit of everything in Skeletonwitch’s sound, from Goatwhore and Battlecross to The Black Dahlia Murder and Exmortus, so if you are not familiar with the act but enjoy these bands that I’ve mentioned, you can definitely give the Athens, Ohio natives a try. ‘The Apothic Gloom’ manages to hold itself as a good EP release for this year, and while Skeletonwitch may never again reach a level of greatness seen in ‘Beyond the Permafrost’, the band should continue to release quality music for many years to come. Recommended.