REVIEWED: August 2018
RELEASED: July 2018, Prosthetic Records
REVIEWER: Lord Of The Wasteland
The loss of a lead vocalist is typically a devastating blow for any band. For Skeletonwitch, the mid-tour ousting of long-time frontman Chance Garnette in 2014 was huge, not just vocally but also as the live focal point. Garnette’s stage presence was legendary and his formidable pipes first throttled this writer way back on their 2004 debut, AT ONE WITH THE SHADOWS (read review here). Enlisting Adam Clemens (Wolvhammer, ex-Veil Of Maya) for 2016’s THE APOTHIC GLOOM EP, a new approach was taking shape to Skeletonwitch’s genre-bending thrash but things really take a dramatic turn on the band’s sixth full-length, DEVOURING RADIANT LIGHT. The thrash roots are still evident but take a backseat to longer, moodier songs and a more nuanced, atmospheric U.S. black metal sound, not unlike that of Pallbearer, Deafheaven and Nachtmystium. Even the band’s instantly recognizable logo and strikingly colorful John Baizley-designed covers of the past are gone, replaced here with a plain, gloomy grey and white image.
Clocking in at a relatively trim four minutes (the eight songs here average nearly six minutes in length each), “When Paradise Fades” and “The Luminous Sky” strike a balance between the old and the new. Clemens’ blackened howls and shrieks lay in the background of the pummeling drums of Dustin Boltjes and blazing riffs of Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette. Likewise, “Carnarium Eternal” gallops along on a punchy riff with a sinister time shift kicking in at the 90-second mark that takes the song down a dark path. Going the other direction at nearly eight and nine minutes apiece respectively, “Fen Of Shadows” and “The Vault” take the USBM style shift by the reins. “Fen Of Shadows” is a truly breathtaking example of songwriting, encompassing a melodic dual guitar intro that eventually leads into a bouncy groove and restrained final section allowing all the musicians to shine. The title track showcases Clemens’ diverse vocal skills and the cleanly-sung/gang-style chorus of “Temple Of The Sun” is a new road taken by the band. The only real misstep here is “The Vault” which simply suffocates under too much atmospheric gloom and overstays its welcome.
In a nutshell, DEVOURING RADIANT LIGHT is Skeletonwitch 2.0, a total reinvention of the band’s sound and image. On its own, this record is solid but the vast difference between the new and old sound may be a tough pill for long-time fans to swallow. Gone are the short thrash attacks of previous albums and a far more varied vocal approach by Adam Clemens has replaced the vicious bark of Chance Garnette. For those willing to think outside the box, though, this new direction taken by Skeletonwitch is one road worth venturing down.
KILLER KUTS: “Fen Of Shadows,” “When Paradise Fades,” “Temple Of The Sun,” “Devouring Radiant Light,” “Carnarium Eternal”
1. Fen Of Shadows
2. When Paradise Fades
3. Temple Of The Sun
4. Devouring Radiant Light
5. The Luminous Sky
6. The Vault
7. Carnarium Eternal
8. Sacred Soil
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