Skeletonwitch - Breathing The Fire (Prosthetic Records, 2009)

I've been Breathing The Fire for a couple of weeks now, and the new Skeletonwitch is definitely a burning, spicy, molten feast of metal. I can't get enough. Boatloads of ink have been spilled trying to describe the Skeletonwitch sound. I think the most commonly used adjective is "old school". It's still the most appropriate. Their Myspace page says that Skeletonwitch "sound like Bay Area Thrash and NWOBHM with elements of Black and Viking Metal." That sounds about right to me.

When I threw on the album for the first time, Breathing The Fire instantly made me think of Megadeth's Peace Sells. The riffage on "Submit to the Suffering" and "Longing for Domination" brought to mind the completely unhinged spirit of "The Conjuring," "Good Mourning/Black Friday" and "My Last Words." That's a pretty impressive compliment. Breathing The Fire doesn't reach the iconic nature of Peace Sells, but it really is a massively entertaining treasure trove of riffs.

Beyond the Permafrost was an awesome album only occasionally marred by leads that couldn't keep up with the rest of the barreling war machine. That problem is completely rectified on Breathing The Fire. Nate Garnett and Scott Hedrick seem to have perfected the delicate balance between speed, chaos and shredding. In addition, the band's songwriting skills have improved quite a bit. I can tell all of these tracks apart. The choruses and riffs are floating around in my head constantly. There is perhaps less melodic death and more thrash on Breathing The Fire. But why even try to parse our the pieces? Skeletonwitch have forged their own sound from all the best parts of old school metal. This shit just rules, hard.

Chance Garnett seems to have upped the ante with his vocals. The sometimes black, sometimes death screaming has an undeniable and unique character. Every song has a memorable chorus or some line that you'll undoubtedly yell along to.

The production is guitar-centric, and appropriate to the music. I do get occasional twinges of regret about the guitar tone. I sometimes wish it had a bit more crunch, but it doesn't really harm the overall experience. I can balance that out in my head with the relief that this isn't an over-compressed shit-fest. The drums and bass gets ample space, and propel this thing along at ludicrous speed. Breathing the Fire never stops moving. That would be a bad thing if it weren't driven by a myriad of fantastic rhythms.

The melodic guitar sections on Breathing The Fire are probably more subtle than on the previous album. There's still plenty of melody, but I think it's used to greater effect on these tracks. "Stand Fight and Die" is positively anthemic.

Skeletonwitch play directly to the "less is more" aesthetic that's currently appealing to me in metal. Short songs, riff driven, simple production, pure metal. Two guitars, bass, drums, vocals and that's it. This pure approach is our last defense against the wretched proliferation of mash-up metal that's currently occurring.

From what I hear, Skeletonwitch are absolutely amazing live. I've not yet had the pleasure of seeing them in person, but I plan on remedying that in October when they play with The Black Dahlia Murder at The Chance.

So yes, this album fucking slaughters start to finish. I'm quite sure it will be on my year-end list. I can't stop listening to it.


Breathing The Fire comes out on October 13th.

Skeletonwitch Myspace


Deafest - Eroding Peaks (Ninth Meridian Records, 2009)

I'm totally blown away by this album. Eroding Peaks is an aesthetic vision made complete. Deafest have found their voice, or rather lack thereof. Gone are the black metal vocals. The drum machine is replaced by the excellent drumming of Brett from Severnaya. The result is fantastic.

The ambient, melodic black metal shtick is married here with the bombastic movements of Mono(Japan). It's like taking the meaty bits out of that music and blackening them on the grill. At the same time, these songs dispense with the long waits and slow builds. This immediacy comes along with killer melodies that hail from the Justin Broadrick school of emotional impact. The black metal vibe continues akin to Wolves In The Throne Room. The difference is that Eroding Peaks delivers less drone, more dynamics and wall to wall riffage. A healthy dose of Weakling's majestic triumph helps this thing along. Deafest make this look too easy.

Make no mistake, this is a self produced album. It sounds raw, but there's something genuine here that's enhanced by the minimalistic production. The overarching theme is still a reverence for nature and man's disregard for it. I think the purely instrumental format does justice to that idea.

Deafest mastermind Chase again manages to churn out riffage that simultaneously conveys majestic visions and grim misanthropy. After several self-released splits and a previous full-length, I'm starting to recognize the guitar tone here as distinctly Deafest. The drum sound is simple, organic and satisfying. Brett rides, blasts and grooves nicely alongside the rapid picking and acoustic passages. It's completely outlandish to hear someone playing drums on a metal recording without triggers, samples and pro-tooled precision. I totally dig it.

Eroding Peaks is still truly black metal, but surely isn't confined by the genre. By dropping the agonized, screeching vocals, the audience is certainly widened. If I play black metal on my home stereo, my wife's usual reaction goes along the lines of "what is this shit?" Playing Eroding Peaks elicited the surprising response of "this sounds pretty good." I'll take it.

I think this is an excellent album, if only too short. Maybe you'll disagree with me. Since the band have made it available for free download here, you've got no excuse not to check it out. Tell me I'm wrong. Until then, I'm going to go celebrate "Where Gnarled Bark Still Stands."


You can order the album here.

Deafest Myspace


Marduk, Withered, Black Anvil, Tombs - August 15th - The Blender Theater, NYC

The trek to this show started on an excellent note. On the train ride down I made the acquaintance of fellow Peekskill metal aficionado Cory Monster. Seeing a dude walking around here in a Trap Them shirt and Bolt Thrower hat is like a Sasquatch sighting.

I met up with Jeanne Fury inside the Blender Theater and prepared for a Tombs pummeling. The sparse crowd started to fill in by the time Mike Hill and co. took the stage. With the usual lack of stage banter the threesome threw down an excellent set. I'm assuming that at least several of the songs were new, as I didn't recognize them. These possible new tracks were fantastic, foreshadowing great things from these guys. The couple of songs they tossed in from Winter Hours sounded excellent. Again, drummer Andrew Hernandez was fucking insane. The drum sound was perfect, and the guy just stood up and pounded the shit out of his kit. Fucking nuclear.

Black Anvil came out next to set up. There is something so perfect about Gary Bennett's guitar tone that even sound check ruled. Black Anvil fucking slaughtered. Paul Delaney screamed like a madman and wielded his bass like an axe. I'm sure that if anyone managed to get on stage, he would have cut them in half. Raeph Glicken's drumming was fantastic, and pounded home the awesomeness of this set.

The sound was excellent, and did justice to the numerous tracks off Time Insults The Mind. The crowd responded well and a pit opened up. It was one of those performances that would shock the uninitiated into noticing. I'm sure Black Anvil made many new fans this night. There's no denying the power of excellent riffage and insane live energy. The band played one new song that was killer. Perhaps more complex than their past work, but certainly reason to be psyched for their next album on Relapse.

During Black Anvil's set, I witnessed one of the most sicking pit injuries ever to occur. As I've mentioned before, the floor of The Blender Theater is slanted down towards the stage. In addition, it's just painted concrete, and the second it gets wet, people start taking spills. One very tall and large dude who was dancing by himself went down hard. In doing so he performed a full split, with one leg twisting out awkwardly behind him. If he didn't tear every muscle in his groin, he must have blown a hammie or torn an ACL. I hope he has health insurance. It was like a slow motion replay of a horrific sports injury.

Withered came out next and performed a set of their patented bearded blackness. I've failed to really get into them for some reason, and the very muddy sound didn't help much. The crowd, for their part, seemed very much into it.

Marduk took their sweet time setting up, but it was worth the wait. The mix was excellent, and the guitar sounded excellent despite the presence of only one guitar player. Mortuus sounded ridiculously good, and his authoritative frog croak incited a full on riot in the audience. Numerous bodies surfed above the pit. I'm only particularly familiar with Marduk's last few albums, but old tracks and new sounded fantastic here. Needless to say, the spectacle was worth the price of admission.


Carcariass - E-xtinction (Great Dane Records, 2009)

The Fucking Champs fucking rule. They shred and thrash with complete ease. But they never take it seriously - that's the beauty of the shtick. Carcariass illustrate would happen if The Fucking Champs were deadly serious about their metal.

Encyclopaedia Metallum lists Carcariass as Technical Death Metal, but that's a stretch. E-xtinction sounds to me like a modernized NWOBHM album with soaring solos, bouncing thrashy grooves and heart stopping melodies. As with many good things in metal right now, Carcariass hail from France.

The vocals are a sore thumb. Four tracks feature "death" vocals, and they couldn't be more out of place. Raphaël Couturier's mid-range growlings stick like glue to his bass lines, and are really just superfluous. The band prove this very point by including instrumental versions of the four songs with vocals. These tracks work perfectly well without the guttural interruptions, so why even bother?

"Exulting Pain" features riffs and melodies that could be left over from Powerslave. "In Cold Blood" has all the riffs that Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth has been dreaming of for a decade. As with The Fucking Champs, Carcariass make it seem easy. Your band should be embarassed of your shoddy riffage. Master-level metal riffs grow on trees in Besançon. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith should listen to "Revenger" to find that lost mojo.

"Domination" starts our with a bass line that recalls the glory days of Athiest. There are a few occasional moments of progginess, but that's not the general idea here. E-xtinction is a fucking clinic on the meaning of heavy metal. The album incites an immediate physical reaction in me - it demands much banging of the head. It is a beautiful edifice to the Olde Schoole.

The production of the album accentuates the leads and melodies. The drums and bass are excellent and sit nicely in the wide open soundscape. The guitar tones of the solos vary quite a bit, which is entertaining. Pascal Lanquetin and Jérôme Lachenal are pretty much inhuman.

The bottom line is that Carcariass are metal. If you ditch the tracks with vocals, E-xtinction should appeal to a wide audience of fans. If you like the Maiden, the Iced Earth or anything in between, you should check it out. If you dig The Fucking Champs, Carcariass are your boys. In the end, there is just about nothing trendy here. Excellent.


Carcariass Myspace



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