Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Skeletonwitch - Breathing the Fire (2009)

My barrier for entry into the sounds of Skeletonwitch has always been the vocals; which is unusual, because I like many other bands that use the same vocals over black or death metal. But something about the grunts and snarls over this particular crisp, riffing style just does not sit well with me. That said, Breathing the Fire has proven one thing: despite any misgivings I have over Chance Garnett's throat, the band is a riffing monstrosity, so much on this album that it eventually won me over.

Breathing the Fire is the band's most accomplished work, a seamless onslaught of steady rhythms that will easily spark the ire of any mosh pit maven or fan of pure 80s riffiness. Sure, there are no songs that had me gasping for an immediate replay as I do with many of my favorite thrash bands, but the guitars across the entire album are very pleasant to bang one's head to, and where they veer slightly into the realm of death metal (as on the bridge of "Longing for Domination"), the quality remains intact. The solos are also pretty great here, they just launch right into their respective tracks at the same relative level as the rest of the mix, and there are usually minor treasures of riffs to find within them. This is a very consistent album, so choosing individual tracks is difficult, but the sanguine melodies of "Released from the Catacombs", "Gorge Upon My Soul" and "The Despoiler of Human Life" stood out slightly, as well as the edgy, thrashing "Stand Fight and Die".

Like most of their records, this one has an organic, honest vibe to the production. The band plugged in their favorite amps, played their songs, polished it up, and mixed it evenly. There is very little flourish, and none is needed. It's a thrash metal album, and it lives or dies by its riffing. Skeletonwitch has lived through this one with some room to spare. Perhaps not one of my favorite thrash albums of late, but it certainly raised my interest more than the band's backlog.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]


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