Saturday, May 22, 2010

Skeletonwitch: Beyond the Permafrost (2007) Review

Metallattorney introduced me to Skeletonwitch, a band from Athens, Ohio, USA with an unapologetically old school extreme metal approach to things. I picked up their 2007 sophomore release Beyond the Permafrost.

Like many albums I've reviewed, these guys are a little tough to really pin down in terms of genre. Many have called them a melodic death / thrash metal band, drawing apt comparisons to At the Gates's classic Slaughter of the Soul. While this is a good description, I think it's more fitting to call them a thrash metal band with some death metal influences (the latter mostly confined to the vocals and drums). The sound, to me, seems about two parts Dark Angel's Time Does Not Heal with one part Death's Leprosy.

The songs are compact, mostly hovering around three minutes in length, and largely they don't go under 99 miles an hour. Because of the speed and economy of the arrangements, and the generous helping of guitar solos, there is not a dull moment on the album.

Like other practitioners of retro metal (such as The Sword), they have also injected the retro flavor into the way they recorded the songs, for good or ill. The performances are extremely raw, retaining the energy and brutality of of a live recording--something which can be lost if you insist on a note-perfect mix. There is also a sense that they are using vintage equipment, either in their amps or recording equipment.

The Verdict: Skeletonwitch perfectly captures the metal attitude of two decades past, from their name to their album art to their music, but does so without merely rehashing what's been done before. It does lack a little polish, though. I wish they could have managed to get note-perfect recordings while still retaining the high energy level; others have managed to do it. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

After writing this, I went back to reread MetallAttorney's review, and am surprised by how similar my take is.

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