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Music Review: Skeletonwitch – Breathing the Fire

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Ohio’s Skeletonwitch pushes their full-speed thrash assault on to their third record, Breathing the Fire, and largely succeeds in constructing an album that lacks pretension and feels completely natural. Some thrash bands go the course of the throwback act, choosing to excavate the best of '80s thrash rather than bringing things to a modern context.

With Skeletonwitch, however, things are different and it shows throughout this record’s 12 tracks. The riffs are crisp, melodies are razor-sharp and the vocals are both ominous and piercing.

As the follow-up to 2007’s Beyond the Permafrost, Breathing the Fire has a hell of a legacy to live up to for fans of this quintet. Fitting in with the new brand of thrash alongside acts like Municipal Waste and Warbringer might seem intimidating, but Skeletonwitch proves that they’re more than up for it with every chunky, clean slice of bludgeoned guitar.

Right out of the gate, Breathing the Fire introduces Skeletonwitch as an act with a huge guitar sound. Guitarists Nate "N8 Feet Under" Garnette and Scott "Scunty D” Hedrick prove dangerous with matching riffs and slashes of noise. Every cut is rounded out with urgency, with Nate and Scott’s brisk playing piling on top of Evan "Loosh" Linger’s bass and Derrick "Mullet Chad" Nau’s drums.

It’s vocalist Chance Garnette, Nate’s brother, that really sets Skeletonwitch apart from the others, though. Delivering a vocal performance that seamlessly meshes dark guttural tones with a screeching, hellish pitch, Chance is every bit the fire-breathing skeleton that adorns the record’s cover.

The band drills the gas and never lets up, hauling through a remorseless salvo of songs that seize, scrape, sneer and scowl like a crazed fiend from beyond the grave.

Album opener “Submit to the Suffering” blamelessly sets the pitch, knocking out a sample of nonsensically swift riffs to match Chance’s frantic shouts and screams.

Nau’s drums hammer through the lower end of “Longing for Domination,” giving the cut a maddening sense of urgency and anguish. And “Gorge Upon My Soul” makes the best out of a killer riff by piling it on top of a nice set of tempo changes and setting fire to the whole fucking thing.

Offering a feast of bloody good thrash for the kids, Skeletonwitch’s Breathing the Fire is a lethal set of deafening aggression. While there isn’t much room to breathe on the album and not much by way of sonic diversity, there’s no questioning Skeletonwitch as a force to be reckoned with in the world of unyielding, devastating thrash metal.

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