Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Skeletonwitch - The Apothic Gloom

Apparently "Apothic" isn't a real word

Okay so apparently while I wasn't looking, the vocalist of Skeletonwitch left?  What the hell, yo?  He was one of the most instantly recognizable traits of the band if you ask me.  His high pitched rasp wasn't really so much of a rasp as it was like... a dry gargle?  I can't even explain it, he was neither dry nor wet with his approach, but it was something special.  More people should try to sound like Chance Garnette.  So what now?  They got some new guy to totally fuck up one of the coolest parts of the band right?

Well... nah, he's rad too.

I feel like that's the main purpose of The Apothic Gloom, it's just a short, four track EP intended to acclimate long time fans like myself to the new guy, and it's a wonderful way to do such a thing.  His style is a little deeper and more crusty, a little more "normal" so to speak than the instantly recognizable GRRAH of Chance, but it works just as well with Skeletonwitch's signature style of thrash metal with little bits of basically everything else thrown in.  The Apothic Gloom takes some more influence from Forever Abomination (the only album besides the future classic Beyond the Permafrost that actually qualifies as essential listening) in that there's a lot more black metal influence here than usual.  This is black/thrash but not in the sense of what most bands with that label imply.  A lot of bands like Witchaven and such, while good, sound more like really lo-fi thrash like early Sodom or Kreator instead of an actual fusing of the relentless pummeling of thrash metal with the melancholic atmosphere of black metal.  That's what Skeletonwitch does here, most notably on the title track and "Red Death, White Light".  The seven minute closer in particular elicits a lot of ethereal tremolo melodies and, well, gloomy atmsophere layered over the blistering thrash underneath.  It works really well and I really hope the next album has more in line with that style.

The other two tracks, "Well of Despair" and "Black Waters" are more in line with Beyond the Permafrost in the sense that they're clearly based in high speed thrash with huge swaths of melody.  "Black Waters" admittedly draws a bit more from Immortal than any given thrash band but the base is still there.  Skeletonwitch is a band that's never content with where they are and are always willing to mix it up, and this EP is no exception.  Like I said, "Red Death, White Light" is a good example since it starts with with such an ethereal delaydelaydelay melody.  They're dipping their toes into post-black like ten years after it became trendy but are still nailing it.  So just like always, they're not exactly blazing new trails as much as they're just taking pre-established ideas and arranging them in an inventive way and standing out in a crowded sea of metal today. 

tl;dr - This is a short review for a short EP so basically the important thing to note is that this is an excellent (and quite literal) marriage of black and thrash metal with great mid range vocals and tons of excellent melodies.  The riffs aren't as quite as strong as they were a decade ago but the essence of the band is still there and probably the best it's been in five years.  Hopefully this signals a rejuvenation and the new album will completely smoke.

RATING - 83%

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