Skeletonwitch - Breathing The Fire
Prosthetic Records
Blackened Thrash Metal
12 songs (35:58)
Release year: 2009
Skeletonwitch, Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Kyle
Album of the month

After listening to a new album a few times, it is tradition for me to search for reviews of the album in question before beginning to write my own. So after giving Skeletonwitch’s latest album Breathing The Fire a few spins and looking the web over for several critiques, I found that the general consensus of the album is that it’s a “True throwback to the oldschool without sounding like a copycat”. While I can agree with this for the most part, at the same time it’s difficult to outright make the same claim. In my mind, Skeletonwitch is Skeletonwitch. They don’t try to sound like any old school band, or any newer band. They just know what music they like, and they play it: A fast, loud, and absurd blend of Black and Thrash Metal, with several melodic hints that sometimes border on being Power Metal. But does Breathing The Fire build upon their excellent 2007 album, Beyond The Permafrost? To put it quite simply: No. In fact, Breathing The Fire is a far simpler album then I expected, and the band has undertaken an unforseen and surprising case of regression.

But is this regression actually a good thing? Depending on the person listening, it could be a great thing, as it is for me. As much as I loved Beyond The Permafrost, it was a helluva odd case of extreme metal, and while very creative, most of it came off as utterly ridiculous (but still very fun) to me. Breathing The Fire, while not quite as original as its predecessor, is definitely a much more solid record, in terms of songwriting and production. It relies much less on obscure melodies – Lead guitar is hardly featured at all here – and instead leans more heavily on endless barrages of speedy Thrash Metal riffs. Tracks like Submit To The Suffering and Stand Fight And Die represent the band and their fastest and most aggressive, while other songs showcase a more driven, reasonable form of Thrash, such as Where The Light Has Failed and Crushed Beyond Dust. Crushed Beyond Dust in particular is excellent, being both punishing and catchy, with shouts of "Crushed beyond dust, crushed, CRUSHED!!" that are sure to be a shout-a-long hit at live shows. The Black Metal moments are still very much here, but they’re injected more skillfully into the overall mix. Instead of sounding like random BM riffs were thrown in for the hell of it, they are now intertwined very nicely into most songs. The album as a whole just feels like a more cohesive and natural experience than Beyond The Permafrost.

The production, as mentioned before, has been greatly improved on in a way that one wouldn't expect. It’s not better in the sense that it’s crystal clear and every component is at the perfect volume; Rather, it has almost more of a “Professional garage” feel, that is almost charming in a weird way. It’s as if Skeletonwitch recorded this in an ancient, crumbling, abandoned warehouse somewhere, but they used top-dollar, state-of-the-art equipment.

As far as riffs go, you probably know what to expect if you’ve listened to Skeletonwitch before; Breathing The Fire is mostly a collection of the fastest, wildest Thrash riffs that the band could come up with. But some of the riffs – and this one of the things intrigued me most about BTF - sound like they could’ve come straight out Bal-Sagoth’s latest album. Whether it be the lead tremolo riffing of Longing For Domination and Blinding Black Rage, or the rapid-fire chord progression in the later part of Repulsive Salvation, Skeletonwitch (Unintentionally, I’m assuming) captured the magic of one of my all time favorite Metal bands and carried it over into a Thrash Metal album. Yet somehow, nothing ever comes off as cheesy or tacked-on; this is well-crafted, visceral Blackened Thrash metal.

Amazingly, after upwards of five listens, I can’t seem to find anything I don’t like about Breathing The Fire. The gurgly, Black Metal vocals seemed unfitting and were a bit of a turn-off at first, but the more you listen to the album, the more fitting they become, and soon I didn’t find their presence obtrusive at all. And Breathing The Fire really is what they call a “Grower”; while it may not seem as good as Beyond The Permafrost at first listen or even third listen (Mostly because of how subtle everything is compared to that particular album; you have dig in with an attentive ear to find the best bits), patience will reward you with an all-around excellent Thrash Metal album that could very well top Beyond The Permafrost and that is without, a doubt, near or at the top of my favorite Thrash releases this year list. I am now certain that, along with Toxic Holocaust, Skeletonwitch is surely one of the best bands of the Thrash Revival scene, and that this Blackened form of Thrash could very well be the future of the Thrash genre.

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