Skeletonwitch

Breathing the Fire

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    8
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All that's really changed between Skeletonwitch's debut for the Prosthetic label, 2007's Beyond the Permafrost, and their 2009 follow-up is that they're -- if possible -- even more themselves. Their blend of thrash, black metal, and classic guitar harmonies has grown airtight through heavy touring, and these songs share all the qualities that made Permafrost one of 2007's best metal releases. As on the previous album, the band is relentless, never slowing down or changing up its basic attack in any but the most minimal ways -- still, the supply of catchy thrash riffs seems inexhaustible. Vocalist Chance Garnette is occasionally annoying; his lower death growls work well, but his other voice is a high-pitched shriek, like a witch from a Halloween sound effects album for children's parties. But the dual lead guitars are smokin' hot, and the band knows to keep it simple and get in and out fast -- the longest song on this album is 3:43, and seven of its 12 tracks come in well under the three-minute mark. This is a drive-around-with-the-windows-down thrash/speed metal album with occasional dips into black metal (but not enough of them to annoy listeners who don't like that genre) and tons of melodic, anthemic riffs and hooks. Skeletonwitch do for thrash what the Sword do for stoner/doom metal -- take the best of the old style and drag it into the present and future.

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