The best thing about American metalheads Skeletonwitch always used to be the air of unhinged madness that hung about them. As a listener you always got the sense that they were only ever a couple of inches away from actually being the berserker madmen that they sang about in their songs.
Of course, now we know that much of that madness stemmed from the rampant alcoholism of former vocalist Chance Garnette – who was, by the way, a true metallian, and a personality to be cherished in these ever-more-anodyne times – and, stripped of the man’s realness, Skeletonwitch seem sadly to have become just another blackened thrash/death machine.
They are still a pretty good band, of course… Tracks on this latest album like ripping anthem The Luminous Sky briefly take you back to the band’s spirited glory days, but it strikes me that a band that still calls itself Skeletonwitch doesn’t have a great deal of business trading in overlong epic battle metal of the sort exhibited on The Vault.
Somewhere along the line a few years ago, I felt High on Fire lost the plot and became ‘just’ another heavy metal band, and I can see that process repeating itself right here, right now for Skeletonwitch.
Devouring Radiant Light would be fine for a new band appearing on the scene, hungry to make a name for themselves and hoping to fit right in with whatever that scene seems to demand. But Skeletonwitch, even with a new vocalist (and Adam Clemens is good, albeit a bit faceless), have a history, a legacy that long term fans won’t like thinking is being swept under the carpet in the name of some sort of spurious progress that nobody needs, and much less wants.
If that sounds like the tortured cry of a soon-to-be superseded Cro-Magnon man, then so be it. If you need me, I’ll be in my cave listening to Beyond the Permafrost…
Devouring Radiant Light is out now.