March 28, 2014 | , | 4.25

Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unleashed

Skeletonwitch: Serpents Unleashed

I’ve written of consistency in a band’s sound and presentation several times throughout the years and if there was ever one band — with as rabid a fanbase as these guys — that is the model of consistency, it’s Skeletonwitch. I suppose that’s why it’s taken me so long to fully get into their latest full-length, Serpents Unleashed. There’s just nothing that we haven’t heard from the band before. That said, the more I listen to these furious eleven songs, the more I really, really like this album.

So what’s so special about Serpents Unleashed that has me sucked into its churning depths? Well, first there is the involvement of one Kurt Ballou as producer. Now, normally the stuff that he produces is dense and layered with a good amount of power behind the product when he’s completed his wizardry. With the sixth studio album from Skeletonwitch, Ballou has instead focused his powers on clarity and uniformity — everything sounds incredibly well put together and anthemic. Unfortunately, it also comes across as a little antiseptic and not as weighty as I would have hoped. A little grit or subtle texture here would have given this album a much needed touch of evil. As it stands though, theres a reason why he’s so well respected and I’m writing for a metal review blog.

Now, like I said, this is Skeletonwitch doing what they do and man, are they at the top of their game with this one. The title track wastes no time getting down to business with burly drum work and driving riffage as Chance Garnette’s recognizable vocals hit the air. It’s as solid an opener as you could expect from these guys. As usual there’s a great interplay between guitarists Scott Hendrick and Nate Garnette as they trade riffs and leads effortlessly. For the next 30 plus minutes the band lurches head long into what can only be described as the biggest circle pit of Hades ancient history.

“Beneath Dead Leaves” is evil as hell as Chance lets loose with some sickening screams before the guys let a solid bit of melody bleed into their full-throttle delivery. The smooth build-up of “I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)” belies the severity and malevolence that head-nodding melodies and groove do their best to mask. This song is infectious as all get out. The momentum continues with the dark moods of “From a Cloudless Sky,” the galloping “Burned from Bone,” the early In Flames influenced “Unending, Everliving” and the malevolent groove of “This Evil Embrace.”

Serpents Unleashed comes across as more of the same upon first listen, but after a couple of times around this hellish block, you begin to realize that, yes, Skeletonwitch may be consistent in their style, but damn, do they deliver some serious metal like a megaton warhead dropping from the sky. Thirty minutes of infectious, riotous metal presented in a way only Skeletonwitch can. Hell. Fucking. Yeah.