Skeletonwitch - At One With The Shadows 2004 Shredded Records reviewed by: EC
1. The Skullsplitter 2. Every Rotten Corpse Shall Burn 3. Vengeance Will Be Mine 4. At One With The Shadows 5. Baptized In Flames 6. No Rest For The Dead 7. Onward To Battle 8. Within My Blood 9. Tragedy Of Days
With an album name like "At One With The Shadows", you would think the band would be called Car Thief, Burglar, or even Ninja. But alas, we get a fine band monicker with Skeletonwitch. Go ahead, say it a few times. It has a great ring to it, although I don't know how you can shorten it for easy audience chants...maybe just Witch...Witch...Witch, but there is already a band called Witch. Maybe just Skeleton, but that doesn't have quite the same lively feel. I guess the boys will need to work on the concert interaction aspect of their band name. In the meantime, it looks like these Athens, Ohio natives have been working hard creating their first impression, that ever important debut album, which can shape the band's entire career.
"At One With The Shadows" marks the band's recording debut, courtesy of Cincinnati's Shredded Records. Skeletonwitch list their influences as Overkill, Vio-lence, early Slayer, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, and a few other notable 80s groups. Upon first listen of "AOWTS", I can hear all of those influences, from the shredding thrash stomp of Overkill, the chaotic hardcore sounds of Vio-lence, and the twin guitar jams of Iron Maiden. There are plenty of bands right now that are hopping on the Gothenburg sound, led by forerunners In Flames, Killswitch Engage, and Avenged Sevenfold. In a way, Skeletonwitch fit that mold, but they take it deeper than just downtuned chugging with the roaming new wave melody. They really do possess that early 80s approach, from the galloping thrash riffs, the new wave melody, the tight stop-and-go drumming, and the production, which in a lot of ways reminds me of the early Bay Area scene with it's garage wattage.
My biggest concern however is in the vocal department, managed by frontman Chance Garnette. Garnette's vocals are unfortunately very much like Cradle Of Filth's leading man, Danni Filth, who to me has always sounded like Mariah Carey caught in a bear trap. Just inhuman, high pitched screams that do little in the way of creating emotion or drama within the tracks. You really can't hear Garnette as anything more than a distraction with these songs. So I ask myself, which audience will buy this product? If the power metal fans are invited to the sale by the group's indications they are deeply rooted in the old school sound, will they be thrown by the black metal vocals? Or if the casual black arts listener hears Garnette's ear piercing, blackened scream, will they be thrown off by the traditional music?
Regardless of the band's core listener intentions, "AOWTS" is a good record filled with classic nods to the old school way of thinking. All nine tracks are filled with pounding rhythm, twin guitar harmony, and Lombardo styled drumming. There are plenty of songs to like here, with several cuts sounding like early Overkill, Slayer, and even at times the mighty Exciter, who may be kings of B metal. The problem for me is that I just can't pick up a song and say it sounds any different than the others, which is where Garnette's voice really dampens my hopes for consistent spins. If we had a classic singer like The Blitz, Dan Beehler, or Neil Turbin, then this would work perfectly. But unfortunately, these aren't classic vocals, and I'm sure Skeletonwitch never intended them to be. This is the style of play they enjoy, and they fill that this vocalist accomplishes their vision. I am just wishing we could get a singer to step up to the plate with some of these newer bands, one that understands people want to hear lyrics, they want to sing along, and that is simply impossible to do with this type of vocal delivery. It would be like singing along to my blender, wash machine, or any other household appliance. Nevertheless, this is a fine musical debut, and one that can land the band near the top tier of America's newest mainstream acts.
Note - This is probably the best album cover of 2004.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.
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