Breathing the Fire

While all the ‘retro’ thrash bands are trying to sound just like 1988, Skeletonwitch has a different take. Sure, their sound hearkens back to the same time period, but a carbon copy they ain’t. Fusing thrash riffs and rhythms with a distinctly black metal vibe (both musically and vocally) and NWOBHM flavored melodies here an there, their sound is much more unique and instantly identifiable than the retro crowd.

Breathing the Fire is the groups third full length (second for Prosthetic) and picks right back up where 2007’s excellent Beyond the Permafrost left off. The overall mood of the album is at once razor sharp and menacing, while also frosty and rigid. This is pretty much par for course when compared to it’s predecessor, but after several listens, a few things become noticeable. First, it’s apparent that they’ve kinda reigned in their sound a little, and as a result are writing stronger and tighter songs. Secondly, some of the tempos have been scaled back just a hair which lets the songs breathe a little more, creating stronger and more memorable hooks in places, and lastly, they seem to have toned down the melodic aspect just a little as well, concentrating a little more on a vicious riff rather than a soaring, speed driven melody. Fear not though, this is still definitely Skeletonwitch, just a more refined and honed in version – the obvious ‘next step’ in their evolution of their “soul thrashing black sorcery”. Heh.

Speed junkies will find solace in the blistering “Longing for Suffering”, “Where the Light Has Failed”, “The Despoiler of Human Life” and “Blinding Black Rage”, while “Released From the Catacombs”, “Gorge Upon My Soul” and “…And Into the Flame” show their newfound sense of pacing. Then there’s tracks like “Submit to the Suffering”, “Stand Fight and Die”, “Crushed Beyond Dust” and “Repulsive Salvation” that not only rip, but have some of the most memorable riffs and hooks they’ve written to date.

What it all comes down to is these Ohio boys have released another face ripping platter of nasty blackened thrash metal, and if you’re not on board yet, it’s high tide to do so. If you’ve been ignoring Skeletonwitch because you see them associated with that fast becoming dreaded “retro” tag, you need to forget that shit and check these guys out, because alongside Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, they’re blowing the doors off all those bands. Breathing the Fire is raw and gritty and just fucking evil sounding, in part thanks to Mr. Jack Endino (High on Fire, 3 Inches of Blood) for giving them such a natural and raw yet clear as can be production job, and in part because that’s just what these guys do.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Larry "Staylow" Owens
November 6th, 2009


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