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Serpents Unleashed

Prosthetic (2013)
Rating: 10/10

Formed in 2003 in Athens, Ohio, Skeletonwitch have slowly built a strong name for themselves over the last decade. The band started really coming to the fore in 2008 as the opening act on Danzig’s Blackest Of The Black tour. Since then, their name has never seemed far from diehard extreme metal fans’ lips. With strong first week sales Serpents Unleashed, their fifth album, may just be the album that shatters the genre and breaks free by appealing to a larger market. Despite its wider appeal though, Skeletonwitch compromise nothing on Serpents Unleashed.

The band waste no time introducing their latest album, choosing instead to berate you immediately with title track, one of the album’s fastest and pissiest moments. Chance Garnette spits the lyrics venomously at the listener, establishing himself immediately as the album’s ringmaster.

After a build-up with all the spite of classic black metal, ‘Beneath Dead Leaves’ settles into a hearty gallop that reminds me of early Arch Enemy and Gardenian musically. The guitars are like big, angry buzzsaws but they also don’t shy away from embracing the obvious melodies. ‘Unwept’, ‘Born Of The Light That Does Not Shine’ and ‘Unending, Everliving’ likewise straddle that line between the glory days of melodic death metal and more melodic side of thrash, while still managing to sound distinct and different from both their peers and influences.

What really impresses me here is the seamless integration of black metal influence. I have always felt that it’s hard to integrate that sound into other styles because it’s so chaotic and ugly. That sound just doesn’t play well with others. On ‘More Cruel Than Weak’ though you can almost hear the band worshipping at the altar of Darkthrone. ‘Blade On The Flesh, Blood On My Hands’, is a bit thrashier overall (and its killer bass breakdown leans that way too) but still has that black metal crankiness that caused so many to become fascinated with the scene’s early days.

Overall, I have always enjoyed Skeletonwitch but Serpents Unleashed makes me love them. The whole album is extreme without being alienating and the band just sound on fire from start to finish. This is a well thought out collection of work that feels like a classic album. There is no filler here, no down or wasted time, just high octane metal that will appeal to any fan of heavy, fast and loud music.

Mark Fisher

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