The new album from Athens Ohio based SKELETONWITCH, “Beyond The Permafrost”, encompasses a sonic collision of old school Bay Area Thrash, classic NWOBHM style guitar playing and Blackened Death Metal vocals. This is the third release for the band and follows their 2006 EP, “Worship The Witch”, and the 2004 debut, “At One With Shadows”.
Featuring the psychedelic cover art of Pushead inspired John Dyer Baizley (also PIG DESTROYER, DARKEST HOUR, and BARONESS), the music inside is certainly also worth taking note of. Vocalist Chance Garnett does a decent job of alternating from raspy Black Metal style shrieking to ultra low register Death Metal growls and although there's nothing terribly unique or all that commanding about his voice, it still works quite well with the music and he gets the job done. The real focus however is the guitar duo of Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette who really tear it up throughout the disk, with their tremolo picked riffs, classic MAIDEN-like harmonies, and hard driving rhythms. Their speedy solos are pretty much of the classic blues based variety and really help bring a somewhat vintage feel to the music. With their obvious classic influences, they reminded me of a Death Metal oriented version of 3 INCHES OF BLOOD. Don’t look for any ballads or plucked acoustic guitars on this album either as the music is pretty much all of the ass kicking up-tempo variety.
A couple of tracks you should make a point to check out include “Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery” with its harmony leads and furious rhythms working perfectly with the drumming of Derrick Nau as they tackle some slightly more technical leaning material. The album closer “Within My Blood” is probably the real highlight though as they clearly pay homage to IRON MAIDEN with this mini-epic track (it’s only a little over four minutes long) that features many of the British pioneers musical trademarks including an all too brief bass solo from Eric Harris (I presume no relation to Steve!) while some classic trade-off soloing further drives the point home.
As energetic and head banging as the music is, the recording unfortunately does suffer a little due to the woefully low volume in the mix for many of the lead vocals as well as the somewhat raw sounding production. It’s a shame really, for a similar criticism about the vocals had been noted here on "The Metal Observer" in regards to their self-released debut “At One With The Shadows”. Considering these guys are now signed to a label you’d think they could have made a point to correct such a flaw. Even so, with their over the top performance and infectious energy, fans of classic Thrash should certainly give this one a listen.