Review: “The Apothic Gloom” By Skeletonwitch

skeletonwitch-the-apothic-gloomBack in April I discussed the announcement of an upcoming Skeletonwitch EP in this blog’s very first post, as part of 5 Things I Want To See On The New Skeletonwitch EP & 1 Thing I Don’t. Now, after the months of waiting, we can finally come full circle and listen to the EP, which the band posted on SoundCloud.

To the avid Skeletonwitch fan, its apparent that on this EP the band are clearly trying to broaden their horizons. The band have chosen to take their blackened thrash hybrid further down the black metal path, as several distinct black metal tropes regularly rear their evil heads. There are plenty more blast beats to find here than on your average Skeletonwitch album, and guitarists Nate “N8 Feet Under” Garnette and Scott “Scunt” Hedrick tend to use fast tremolo picked sections and cold, dissonant chords to create the signature frosty black metal atmosphere. These elements are definitely pushed to the fore on the EP’s seven minute closer “Red Death, White Light”, which opens with a harsh wall of sound before exploring melodic interplay between both guitars at about the five minute mark. Whilst this creates a suitably dark and more mature feel, the lack of their old school thrash sensibilities has meant that the album has less hooks and so doesn’t have an immediate impact- it definitely encourages you to have a few more listens.

skeletonwitch_2016

Skeletonwitch 2016

That’s not to say that Skeletonwitch have completely forgotten their knack for rollicking riffs and catchy melodies, far from it, its just that they are used sparingly and strategically. For example, lead single “Well Of Despair” has some bouncy riffage to ignite mosh pits left, right and centre, particularly in the song’s bridge, but its complimented with a racing blackened chorus that tempers the track from becoming a full-blown thrash-fest. Likewise, “Black Waters” has plenty of crunchy guitar work, tasty guitar solos and retro black metal fury in abundance, yet its also carefully complimented with exquisitely layered guitar harmonies. Skeletonwitch are showing a greater degree of thought and care with their songs- these aren’t riff workouts but considered compositions with a more mature use of melodies and dynamics.

If I had to nit-pick any aspect of the EP, then it would have to be the vocals. In all fairness, new vocalist Adam Clemens does a decent job, as his barks and roars carry more power and oomph than previous vocalist Chance Garnette, but there isn’t much variety to them. There are a few occasions where the growls might be deeper or a little higher, but they don’t stray too far and so some of the songs lose a bit of texture and variety. His vocal patterns aren’t too adventurous either, as they aren’t really any catchy choruses or lyrics to really wrap your ears around. Hopefully, he’ll have a few surprises up his sleeve for when the band embark on a full-length release.

Whether this release indicates any future stylistic shifts remains to be seen, but so far its encouraging to hear the band trying new ideas and testing new sounds. Fingers crossed that they’ll be in top form for when they record a new album.

Rating: 7.5/10

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What albums should I review next? Feel free to leave a comment, like this blog post, like the Facebook page , follow the Pinterest page, and follow this blog for more content.

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