Released: 2013, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
As re-thrash bands go, Ohio's Skeletonwitch fall somewhere between the reverential pantomime of 3 Inches of Blood and the revisionist havoc of Revocation. Their sound is at once familiar, even its influences are not so obvious, but bears enough distinctive touches so that when you hear it, you'll know it's Skeletonwitch.
Much of that comes thanks to the raging, almost death metally, vocals of Chance Garnette, who is something of a higher-pitched, more intelligible version of Obituary's iron-lunged John Tardy. His bandmates' penchant for splashes of black metal, notably in the tremolo guitar lines of “Burned to the Bone,” “Unending, Everliving,” “Born of the Light The Does Not Shine” and “This Evil Embrace” here, on the band's fifth album, helps in that regard as well.
At their core, though, Skeletonwitch are full-on, textbook thrash, delivering a simple, straight-forward and rarely relenting blizzard of manic guitar rabble, galloping drums and moshy hooks in just the right places. The songs blow by here in two- to three-minute gusts that let up only during brief intro interludes – or not so brief in the case of album closer “More Cruel Than Weak,” which recalls early Destruction with its cutting riffs once things get going.
The rough-hewn production by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou gives Serpents Unleashed an assertive rawness that works well with the black metally textures the band infuse – providing an almost“necro” sound, yet without being militantly low-fi or sparse. It lends an authentic flair and gives the album some real bite even if the songs sometimes are there and gone before they can really resonate.