"Serpents Unleashed"

By Professor Jocko

 With so many death metal bands out there, mainly hailing from Europe, it is nice to see a prominent extreme metal band coming from the U.S. You can definitely add Skeletonwitch to a list including Cannibal Corpse, Black Dahlia Murder and Lamb of God. Originally from Ohio, of all places, these guys have been around for 10 years now, having just released their fifth studio album. The overall style of “Serpents Unleashed” is a very raw and nihilistic mix of black and thrash metal that will surely please all fans of the genre, but the subtle elements of experimentation and occasional melody is what sets this release apart from previous LP’s. If you want powerful riffing, varied song structures, brutal drumming and demonic singing, then this release is perfect for you. However, be warned that this album has more than it meets the eye (or ear in this case) and will surely catch you by surprise in some sections. Every album these guys have ever done has kicked ass and this one is no exception. When I first heard Skeletonwitch years ago, I was into Morbid Angel, Kreator and Soulfy, and looking for something just as demonic; "Beyond the Permafrost" was the coolest thing I had heard in quite awhile, then "Breathing the Fire" came out a couple years later and I was hooked. I then went back into their catalog to find the first LP, "At One with the Shadows" and I have never looked back, or questioned whether or not I would buy another Skeletonwitch album.

 There are several tracks on this album that really bring me back to what it was that originally drew me to this kind of music. I won’t take you on a lengthy nostalgia trip, but let me say that Skeletonwitch is what dearth metal is all about. “Serpants Unleashed” is the title track, and I find that this song has just an incredible power, as it displays a ripping impression of brutality that sets the stage of what is to come. The guitars are in unison and grow towards a pinnacle for the intro lead for an impressive display of hard-edge metal that is strongly backed by pounding rhythmic beats and screeching vocals that match the intensity of the rest of the band. That lead direct into the second track called “Beneath Dead Leaves”, which epitomizes what a broken-nose mosh-pit would be formed around…play this one as loud as you can and break a neck! Moving on, there are other various tracks that are more versatile musically, where the change in rhythm and syncopation in the verses really add to the diversity of the song. The track titled “This Evil Embrace” which possess main riffs with an identifiable chorus which seems to change slightly from the others. Although the lyrical style remains typical, the power of the song is maintained where the rhythm and lead guitars work very well together, which carry the beat of the vocals and makes it seem somewhat different from previous tracks.

Perhaps my favorite track on the album is “Unending, Everliving”, which seems to epitomize a song that is drawn by violence and aggression. I especially like the guitar solos in this one, which is kind of a tormenting shred of notes put together in a way that blasts through your ears. The deep, heavy riffs really seem to hold the song together, which further the attitude and message the band intends to, which is impact and intensity. The final track, “More Cruel Than Weak” is a somber, dark, mystical side that any true metal band aspires to, especially in the intro of the song where the guitar leads you into a climactic portion of the rest of the song. The vocals appear to become a little more prominent here as the rest of the band seems to become a secondary component and more supportive as opposed to the primary force as in previous tracks where the tone appears to be more powerful. I find this one to be one of the more impressive albums as the diversity of the band really shines through. It is almost as if several different styles combine together on one fantastic musical example of what draws people to Skeletonwitch. There is just so much you can draw from this as it progresses through insane vocals, shredding guitars and a pounding rhythm section. It ends just as cool as it started!