Skeletonwitch- Serpents Unleashed (Prosthetic Records/Rocket Distribution)

Another fine piece of metal mayhem...
Release Date: 
25 Oct 2013 (All day)

Call me sentimental, but in this age of bells, whistles and po-faced self-consciousness, I have a real soft spot in my heart for bands that forego all of the extraneous bullshit and get down to the business of being really fucking metal.

Athens, Ohio blackened thrash quintet Skeletonwitch are a band that pretty much exemplifies the workhorse and no nonsense spirit that makes metal so thrilling. Following on from previously strong releases, such as 2011's Forever AbominationSerpents Unleashed is yet another distillation of the best elements of black, thrash and classic metal. What's more, it's served to us in a compact 30 minute package that goes extremely well with excessive amounts of beer, bourbon or cheap fortified wine.

Of course, you mightn't even have time to pour yourself a drink as the title track starts things off with a massive kick to the jaw. It's refreshing to hear the first song of an album hit as hard as this does, as it's become something of a lost art for many metal bands that opt in favour of the almost obligatory epic or acoustic instrumental opening track. At just over 2 minutes long and riffs that scream 100% pure 80's thrash, the band wastes no time in letting the listener know just what they're in for over the next half hour or so.

One of the biggest strengths of Skeletonwitch is their ability to crank out quality tunes like they're working an assembly line. You'd be hard pressed to find a weak song on Serpents Unleashed and everything is paced in such a way that things don't get monotonous for the listener. Vocalist Chance Garnette provides another stellar performance and helps to mould songs like I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived) and particularly the closer More Cruel Than Weak into delightfully crusty earworms.

Skeletonwitch manage to throw in a few interesting twists to the core of their sound, like a melodic phrasing of riffs here and there or some classic metal sprinkled sparingly over the top of their black/thrash stew. In particular, the work of bassist Evan Linger manages to be quite interesting and underpins a lot of the music which is quite an accomplishment for a bassist playing this kind of music.

If you're reading this, I don't need to bloody tell you that the wheel has not been re-invented on this album. Like that matters at all. Serpents Unleashed is tremendous. Go out, buy it and break stuff.