UniqueReview by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.
I was asked, on the basis of being "uniquely qualified," to do this guest review of the newest Skeletonwitch offering. I lived in the band's hometown for several years, saw them live frequently, and socialized with members of the band outside of music-related settings. Presumably this should give me some unique insight, but I don't know if that's actually true.
Every other year since 2007, when October rolls around, Skeletonwitch gives us another slab of blackened thrash to enjoy. In terms of both quality and release-timing, the band has established a very consistent track record since hitting the big time with their second full-length, Beyond the Permafrost. Well this time around the offering on the table is Skeletonwitch's fifth album, Serpents Unleashed.
This is, in every way, a Skeletonwitch record. The high energy levels, the catchy-but-cutting riffs, the precise drumming, and the vitriolic snarls are all emblematic of exactly why the band has established such a good name within the metal community. They are a group with a remarkable work ethic and a keen eye for quality control, so both live and in the studio, they know what their fans expect and they strive to bring it every time with full force. In many ways, picking up a Skeletonwitch album is a bit like buying the newest Amon Amarth release. You know exactly what you're going to get, so while creativity isn't high on the band's priority list, no fan of their style is ever really disappointed by the new material either. It's good. It's always good.
The band mixes the pacing up enough to keep things from getting redundant, and while the frenetic highs serve as the natural crescendos of the music, I actually find myself enjoying the slower, more melodic moments. Things never get truly slow for long, though. There is a soft intro or two, but typically they just ease back into a comfortable mid-pace for a minute before launching into the next violent assault. The eighth track, "This Evil Embrace," most clearly and enjoyably demonstrates that side of their sound. I also noticed, as I listened through the album, that the overall pace of the record seems to slow down a little bit as it progresses. Again, that's not to say that it gets slow or loses its teeth, but there seem to be a few more down-tempo moments in the latter half of the album than in the first half. The shift is fairly subtle, though, and it all feels very natural.
In the end, I'd say this is a record that should please every fan of the band. If you like their earlier records, go ahead and pick this up with total confidence. If you didn't like their previous material, though, then Serpents Unleashed probably isn't going to change your mind.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars.