Skeletonwitch - Serpents Unleashed
Prosthetic Records
Blackened Thrash
11 songs (31' 41")
Release year: 2013
Skeletonwitch, Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Andy

I first saw Skeletonwitch opening at a show in Portland and was immediately impressed. In addition to the breakneck pace of their blackened thrash metal, the band members themselves made the rest of the opening acts seem dull and lifeless by comparison -- the vocalist, in particular, was leaping all over the stage! Their music is just as impressive; Forever Abomination had some really well-written songs on it, more complex and catchier than the last album, and Serpents Unleashed continues the progression, though it feels slightly smoother this time around, like the band is getting more comfortable with the musical direction they've turned towards.

The title track starts immediately, and it follows a similar rhythm to many songs from Forever Abomination, with steady, staccato drumming with riffs that would be at home on any thrash metal album and a barrage of endlessly creative guitar riffs courtesy of guitar duo Nate Garnette and Scott Hederick. It's a neatly well-written song, but more interesting to me was Beneath Dead Leaves, which still is a very high-energy thrash song, but is much more on the black metal side in terms of riffs. Chance Garnette's growled vocals remain quiet, scratchy affairs that combine as an evil whisper/growl, very smooth for black metal; considering how manic the rest of the ensemble is, it seems rather weird at first that the vocalist wouldn't have a louder or raspier presence, but his style has developed that way and, as mentioned in one of our previous reviews, the band would now sound weird without it.

And it's good that you can hear what's going on, because there are endless, catchy little riffs scattered through each song. From a Cloudless Sky, for instance, switches from a grand, sweeping wall of sound to an intricate set of two-guitar rhythms, through which the aforementioned riffs jump out with every change in the song structure. There are solos, too, but that doesn't really seem to be Skeletonwitch's focus; because of the quiet vocals and the smooth mixing, the solos really aren't particularly attention-getting. They're not bad or anything, just overshadowed by the much greater skill of everyone on the rhythm front. Burned From Bone has almost a melodeath sound to it, reminding me a bit of something Amon Amarth would do (though if they did, they'd be playing at least 25% slower than these guys), but Unending Ever Living goes straight back to thrashing, something that the fiendishly precise drumming of Dustin Boltjes and all those clever guitar riffs play very well.

This Evil Embrace again gives up thrash territory for the stylings of black-metal -- lots of double-kick drums and tremolo-picked guitar -- and contains one of the better solos. While Skeletonwitch's thrash leanings are probably what they partake of most, there is a distant, lonely sound to a lot of the hooks that thrash metal doesn't possess, such as on Unwept or Born of the Light, and throughout, the songs have more melodic hooks than a meat locker. Sometimes there is so much going on in a track that one has to listen to it again right afterwards to take it all in and catch everything they were doing.

Serpents Unleashed may very well be the best album Skeletonwitch has produced up to now. They got rid of every slow or boring moment from the past album, but kept everything that made it good, from the incredibly tight musicianship to the catchy songwriting that they had improved upon last time. This is an improvement by an already very talented lineup that one highly recommends.

Killing Songs :
All of them
Andy quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Skeletonwitch that we have reviewed:
Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination reviewed by Kyle and quoted 87 / 100
Skeletonwitch - Breathing The Fire reviewed by Kyle and quoted 89 / 100
Skeletonwitch - Beyond The Permafrost reviewed by Ross and quoted 96 / 100
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