Skeletonwitch - The Apothic Gloom - (5/10)
Published on August 19, 2016
Skeletonwitch’s most-recent album, Serpents Unleashed (2013), came and went without much fanfare.1 It was a solid record to be sure, but the band that were once touted as the future of “true” heavy metal within the mainstream—and seemed to be fulfilling the prophecy with 2011’s Forever Abomination—appeared to have run their course, with their previously-appealing, blackened thrash style sounding all but out of steam. It was clear that something needed to change… Enter new vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer, Shaidar Logoth)—replacing original vocalist Chance Garnette—and the band’s brand new EP, The Apothic Gloom, which sees Sketonwitch moving in a decidedly new direction.
Skeletonwitch have always dabbled in black metal, yet their sound (until now) has always been firmly rooted in the thrash side of things. The Apothic Gloom sees the band severely upping the black metal component of their music to the point where it becomes the dominant characteristic of their sound. Along with this accentuated, “blackend” aspect, there’s also a greater emphasis on traditional heavy metal elements creeping into Skeletonwitch’s sound—kind of like the direction Kvelertak went on their latest release, without going full Thin Lizzy.2 Yet, while that might make for an appealing combination on paper. The results are less than overwhelming.
There isn’t anything all that wrong to point out about The Apothic Gloom,; just that it isn’t all that good. The opening title track sounds like a mix between black metal and Here Waits Thy Doom-era 3 Inches Of Blood and comes and goes without leaving much of an impact other than to inspire a remark of: “hey, that’s different”. “Well Of Despair” is a classic, black metal number, and also happens to be the best track here. However, while it stands out amid its surroundings, it does little to impress of its own merit. Both the track and EP as a whole also suffer from a sub-par mix which leaves the clearly produced instruments—especially the drums—sounding overly processed, without yielding all that much impact. “Black Waters” has more of a traditional vibe to it, while “Red Death, White Light” rounds out the record in a grandiose fashion which even sees faux-strings being added into the mix. Yet—once again—for all its grandiosity, it hardly leaves much of an impression by the time it, and the EP itself, are through.
While semi-bold new direction of The Apothic Gloom is a (somewhat) refreshing one, it also largely does away with much of what made Skeletonwitch so appealing in the first place. Despite all their heavy metal posturing—in fact, largely because of it—Skeletonwitch have always been a fun band. They were like the blackened thrash metal equivalent of 3 Inches Of Blood or Amon Amarth—taking their heavy metal seriously but not themselves. I mean, hell, they’re called Skeletonwitch for Satan’s sake! The moody, black metal take of The Apothic Gloom—as it’s cheerful title might suggest—is an inherently more “serious” take on the genre, and its one which doesn’t leave much room for the sort of obnoxious riffs and rollicking vocals that served as the centerpiece of Skeletonwitch’s sonic appeal.
1 Matt begs to differ…
2 Never go full Thin Lizzy.