Skeletonwitch

Tidbits: the various, the sundries, the miscellaneous, the whatevers.

dev_randomEvery decade or so, at least for me, I hit a “dry spell” as a music listener and/or reviewer. No one album sounds that great, rocks my world, whatever– hence the four-month absence of Sawtoothwave from the “new article” section of Awesome Websites Monthly.

I finally figured that, since there were no full albums worth reviewing, on this, my birthday in the early/mid/late 40s, I should hip you to what I have actually been listening to whilst I get up, or work out, or wash dishes, or fall asleep, or whatever. Sound good?

And maybe, just maybe, these tracks are extra good because they pierced my shell of indifference, my equivocal soul, my hemming-and-hawing eardrums….

So, in no order:

Carcass’ “Thrasher’s Abbatoir,” and “316L Grade Surgical Steel,” from Surgical Steel: blistering thrash-cum-archetypal death metal, ferocious as fuck, played by experts.

Hail of Bullets’ “Pour La Mérite,” and “Dak” from III The Rommel Chronicles: a lumbering granite Godzilla, destroying the earth and teaching you about World War II German commanders all the while.

Finnish thrash-ish band Stone’s “Get Stoned,” from Stone: catchy power metal/ thrash that went on to influence bands like Children of Bodom. Great stuff.

Skeletonwitch’s “Burned From Bone,” from Serpents Unleashed: typical Skeletonwitch, in that it’s thrash/black/power metal’s heavy yet disco-ish fury in less than three minutes.

Pelican’s “The Tundra,” from Forever Becoming: if the whole album were like this, it would be as awesome as their greatest album….

Sting’s (I love Sting and every ounce of his pretentiousness, you shut your damn face) “What have we got?” from The Last Ship: add some distorted guitars to this and it would be Týr’s greatest song EVAR….

Speaking of which, Týr’s “Hold the heathen hammer high,” and “Trondur I gotu,” from By the Light of the Northern Star: pagan metal that is an inspiring as a pre-battle pep-talk from a renegade Norse warlord. Fair warning: play either one and you’ll hum it for weeks; it will be more of an earworm that anything Kahn could have devised.

Shining’s “Healter Skelter,” from Blackjazz, and “I Won’t Forget,” from One One One: tenor sax as jazz that really loves metal, much like….

Peter Brötzmann Octet’s “Responsible/ for Jan Van de Ven” from The Complete Machine Gun Sessions: jazz, as metal as it gets.

Fontanelle’s “Traumaturge,” from Vitamin F: if Miles Davis, specifically the Miles Davis from Bitches’ Brew, wanted to make some metal– and rub some funk on it.

Tribulation: anything from The Formulas of Death, but you’ll only need one tune.

Eric Church’s “Smoke a little smoke,” from Caught in the act: Live— this country outlaw ends his tune about wine and weed with the main riff from Sab’s “Sweet Leaf” (love the audience’s collective What the fuck?)– what more do you need to know?

Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan”: a 32-minute opus of revolving licks and paeons to marijuana and altered states in general.

Finally, we have Sloath’s newest work (though it was recorded at the same time as their first album, one of my favorites of all time): “The Deep Rift IV.” Just listen.

I’ve been me and this is my time. Thank you very much, I’ve been great.

Skeletonwitch, Forever Abomination

This is one of the blurbs that came with the advance of Skeletonwitch’s Forever Abomination:

Skeletonwitch has been called every name in the fucking book: death metal, black metal, thrash metal, speed metal, heavy metal, epic viking blackened thrash ‘n’ roll, and so on. It seems the only description everyone can agree on is metal.

Something you might need to know here:

The blurbs that come with advance copies of albums are RIDICULOUSLY hyperbolic– “this band will take your virginity, change your gender and make you smart enough to build a trans-dimensional teleporter to visit God himself– and then bitch-slap him in the face! (Also you’ll lose weight and gain lean muscle.)”

They’re almost an art form of intentional, nay, Voltaire-esque, excursions into world-bending parody. They’re so far over the top that their children never even knew there was a top to be over.

Have I made my point?

This in mind, the above Skeletonwitch quote is actually completely spot on: “epic viking blackened thrash ‘n’ roll” is a great description of the SW sound– as is “metal.”

“This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” the album opener, starts with (old-school thrash style) the acoustic intro, segues into a very cool bay-area thrash breakdown riff at about 2:00, then fires off Maiden/Priest style dual-leads…. “Reduced to the Failure of Prayer” (great title) starts with particularly effective roaring from vocalist Chance Garnett (who I normally find a bit underwhelming) over Testament-like riffs and solos….

…and in all the songs you can not only hear the bass, but it’s usually playing a part separate from the leads– which illustrates the level of songwriting (or at least riff writing) here…

Track 3, “Of Ash and Torment” has a great melody at 1:00, and overall the best hooks on the album– comparable to “Within My Blood” and “Crushed Beyond Dust,” to me the highlights of their first two albums. This track also illustrates the second, and arguably best, illustration of SW’s songwriting skill–

These songs are short.

Not Grind/ punk short, but rarely over 3 minutes. They get in, they rock out, they get out. The songs are usually over before you realize it– and makes me wish SW would hold a workshop for doom/sludge bands (my true love) about how to write short songs. Yeah, sometimes length is the point, but more often than not a good doom song could be made great by being half as long, amirite?

All the tracks, particularly “Shredding Sacred Flesh” and “Cleaver of Souls” are unapologetically metal (i.e., awesomely ridiculous/ ridiculously awesome), and as the songs unfurl all the melodies sound something Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade” (not a bad thing at all) and the guitars have that Gibson-straight-into-Marshall sound from Kill ’em All.

In fact, that’s the best description of Skeletonwitch as heard on Forever Abomination: 1982 Metallica covering Iron Maiden with Cronos singing.

Not original at all, but excepting that– perfect.

Micro: City of Steel, Untimely Demise

Canada’s Untimely Demise, are, essentially, Skeletonwitch– if they were more interested in bay-area thrash metal, ca. 1987, than in Iron Maiden.

If 3 Inches of Blood are this year’s traditional metal act, then Untimely Demise are their thrash counterparts.

Dig: