Skeletonwitch – Forever Abomination Album Review1 By Rick Bakker
While black metal first gained worldwide attention in the 90’s for its association with church burnings and murder, it was the classic albums of Satyricon, Dissection, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, and Cradle of Filth that legitimized the genre as a true force in the world of metal and not a passing fad of devil worshippers. In the years since however, many of the aforementioned bands have either ceased to exist or changed their sound so much that they can sometimes be hardly recognized as the bands they were at the genre’s height. But Skeletonwitch, from Athens, Ohio, have steadily risen from the underground with a throwback sound to black metal’s infancy infused with classic 80’s thrash. On their latest album “Forever Abomination” (Prosthetic Records 10/11/2011), Skeletonwitch have not only topped their previous albums, they have released one of the best extreme metal albums in years.
So what makes this record so great? From the opening track to album closer “My Skin of Deceit”, you will be hooked and not once hit the song skip button. This album is undeniably memorable and not a single section feels like filler. The disc often times recalls the classic Dissection albums “The Somberlain” and “Storm of the Lights Bane”, which is no easy feat given those album’s iconic status. Skeletonwitch have refined their songwriting so well that even non-fans of extreme metal could be sucked into the grooves, and to be blunt, this 5 piece accomplishes more musically than some symphonic black metal bands can with a 50-man orchestra.
The opening track “This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” eases in with some Opeth-esque acoustic guitars, eerily setting the stage for the mayhem that is to come. As it swells to the opening riff and singer Chance Garnette’s demonized vocals kick in, the bands razor-sharp sound will have any fan of metal headbanging along. This track, along with the rest of the album, showcases the bands desire to build memorable songs and catchy riffs over technical flashiness. This is also evidenced by drummer Dustin Boltjes solid drumming. While most black metal drummers choose to blast beat as often as possible, he will often stay in the pocket and lay down a smooth rock rhythm, then unleash the double bass and blast beats when necessary for maximum effect. Chance Garnette’s vocal flows match the grooves perfectly, and highlights the excellent riffs instead of distracting from them like many extreme metal vocalists can be guilty of. “Forever Abomination” is like a journey through extreme metal history, as guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick put on a riffing clinic that will show some of their influences throughout. On “Erased and Forgotten” and “My Skin of Deceit” they easily transition from a black metal assault to sounding like a possessed Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The verse riffing on “Reduced to the Failure of Prayer” could be right at home on a classic King Diamond album, while the chorus of “Shredding Sacred Flesh” recalls “In the Nightside Eclipse” by Emperor. On the ending of “Cleaver of Souls” the band slows the pace to display some nice, melodic guitar solos.
If there are any faults to be leveled at the album, it could be said that the style rarely varies and it has a very short run time (the longest song is the opener at 4:10). However, this shows Skeletonwitch‘s focus on delivering tight songs that are to the point and do not unnecessarily meander for the sake of song length. Skeletonwitch have delivered an instant extreme metal classic. Fans who miss the days “old school” black metal should absolutely pick “Forever Abomination” up.