The return of the kings! When it comes to the world of blackened thrash, there are two names that always come most readily to mind: Absu and Skeletonwitch. With their own different takes on the style, these bands have ruled on high for some time now. When it comes to speed, intensity, and catchiness; one need look no further. And now in accordance with their continued reign, Skeletonwitch have released a new EP in the form of The Apothic Gloom. Complete with new vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer), the Ohio band is ready to shred with the same heavy metal spirit that put them on the throne to begin with. Look out Vektor, there's more competetion coming your way.
I was a big fan of the band's previous LP, Serpents Unleashed, which was recorded by Kurt Ballou (Converge) and featured some of their iciest tunes to date. Many, myself included, wondered if Adam was up to the task of filling Chance Garnette's rather large shoes. After all, the man helped define the band's sound since 2003. Fortunately, Mr. Clemans seems to be up to it. I had the pleasure of catching him opening with Wolvhammer for Taake, and already he earned many points for his energetic demeanor on stage. But what about on the album?
Adam makes a smart decision on this recording to put his own voice into the band. Rather than trying to imitate Chance's style, it is clear that changes have been made. In my opinion it's not a change for better or worse...it's simply different. Adam's delivery is a bit "squelchier" and carries a touch of hardcore and metalcore that reminds me of Between the Buried and Me's harsher songs. While I was initially uncertain about how this would play out, I am happy to say that his delivery gels just fine with the music, and I think the adjustment was smooth. I won't forget Chance, but I'm not going to have an extended mourning period either.
Speaking of the music, let's be real: a lot of us didn't really come to a Skeletonwitch album for the vocals. The guitars and drums have always been the true defining point on the band's sound, and this is no different for The Apothic Gloom. The drums belt out sharp D-beats and cymbal blasts that infuse every track with immense energy. This is black metal on Adderall. And despite the ferocity, the bass and guitars don't miss a single beat. Folky tremolo lines cut through waves of enemies like a hot knife. If you liked any of Skeletonwitch's previous albums, you're getting what you paid for here. From the unrepentent pummeling of lead single "Well of Despair" to the 80's heavy metal riffs and solos on "Black Waters," each moment is perfection.
This EP really doesn't do a thing wrong. All four songs are of top caliber; so much so that I have a difficult time picking a favorite. Were it not for the fact that the band is largely staying the course, this release could be an easy 10 for me. But I'm not sure I really want anything different from Skeletonwitch anyways. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This doesn't apply to every band, but I feel in the case of The Apothic Gloom, this old addage is entirely relevant. When you've got a talented group of musicians who truly rip, just keep on keeping on. Excellent work. Listen below via bandcamp.com. Long live the Witch.