2013 marks the ten year anniversary of the Athens, Ohio blackened thrash metal band Skeletonwitch. Now I’ve been a big fan of the band ever since first listening to their 2007 album “Beyond the Permafrost.” And what was not to love about it? The tracks were heavy and fast, so much so that it caused my neck to go to headbanging warp speed. One of the greatest perks if you are a fan of Skeletonwitch is you don’t have to wait long for the band to release a new album, which they do every other year in October. This year marks the release of their fifth studio album, “Serpents Unleashed,” and I can tell you this, like all Skeletonwitch albums, it is a force to be reckoned with.
The band has once again recruited John Baizley, from Baroness, for the cover art. He also crafted the art for “Beyond the Permafrost.” Baizley‘s image of a man with a skull for a head holding a staff in one hand and a knife in the other hand while carrying a lamb, surrounded by serpents that are slithering around him, is disturbingly beautiful.
I’ve heard some people say that every witch album sounds the same. On the surface, I can see where some people might get that opinion, but digging deeper, I believe the band improves their craft with every album. “Serpents Unleashed” is no different from every other albums time-wise. Clocking in around thirty minutes, the album is 11 tracks of “in your face” brutality.
The album is, lyrically and vocally, perfectly in sync. When listening to front man Chance Garnette, you believe he is one of the demonic creatures depicted in the album climbing out of the mouth of hell to do evil unthinkable things to your physical body and soul. Tracks such as ‘Unending, Everliving,’ ‘This Evil Embrace’ and ‘Burned From Bone’ are so frighting you might find yourself sleeping with the lights on. My words can not give justice to the devastating guitar duo of Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick as they continue to impress. Heavy as hell riffs on ‘I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived),’ melodic solos on ‘This Evil Embrace’ and the intense, red-hot tempo on the title track will leave your ears bleeding. Evan Linger and Dustin Boltjes‘s combined bass and drums are top notch throughout the album. So many great albums I’ve listened to over the years have lacked the strength of a bass line, so it was refreshing that Linger‘s bass skills were front and center on ‘Blade on the Flesh, Blood on my Hands’ and ‘Unwept.’ Boltjes has stepped up his drumming a notch on this album, rocket fast drum bass and gatling gun-like blast beats will make your head spin with metal delight.
The good news: “Serpents Unleashed” is thrash/blackened metal gold. The bad news: It will leave you wanting more. The good news: If everything goes according to schedule (cross my fingers), Skeletonwitch will release another album in 2015.