Skeletonwitch is an American Melodic Thrash Metal band from Athens, Ohio and were formed in 2003 by Scott Hendrick and Nate Garnette both on guitar and Nate’s brother Chance Garnette on vocals, these three have been the only consistent members in the band with drummers and bassists changing every few years. That is until Chance was charged with assault and battery in December 2014 and subsequently fired from the band due to issues with alcoholism and alcohol abuse. His permanent replacement was confirmed in 2016 as Adam Clemans formerly of Wolvhammer and Veil of Maya. The current line up also includes Evan Linger on bass and Jon Rice on drums. Devouring Radiant Light is Skeletonwitch’s sixth full length studio album.
When you think of Skeletonwitch, having grown up with them like I did, then you’ll probably think of straight to the point, vicious in your face thrash metal that finishes as sudden as it starts. Typically most Skeletonwitch songs clocked in at 3-4 minutes, this album however, really changes that up. There is still a lot of elements of thrash here, but its also got some very atmospheric black metal fused with melodic death metal style thing going on. The first track Fen of Shadows starts up with a church orchestral intro, its not until around the minute mark that we the song really starts to pick up and gets going, at a time when most Skeletonwitch songs would have already gotten halfway through, that being said I do like how atmospheric the intro is and with the overlapping of heavily distorted and harmonic guitars it creates quite a cool affect that serves to please old and new fans, I just feel like the intro could have been shorter in my opinion. Once the vocals kick in we are treated a very powerful roar, with the lyrics hard hitting, Adam isn’t giving you the Chance (pun not intended) to back out yet and his vocals really do work well with the instrumentals, quite a powerful shrieking roar and a certain rasp to it as well, like a demon spitting in manic fury, a massive amount or difference between this style and the vocals of Chance. The two guitarists also really do work well together, most bands just have two playing together where as here its them showing their skills separately in places then coming together on choruses and that really adds to the thrashy but harmonic nature of the album. Of the three singles, Fen of Shadows is probably a better representation of what the album is like, it down grades on the thrash in favour of a more melodic style with elements black metal and dare I say it, prog metal.
What I like about the album is that they are really trying something new and for the most part its pretty cool, but through out the album it doesn’t consistently deliver the same feeling, some of the songs are way too long and there are parts all over where logically they could have ended, and I think this is what is really gonna divide fans on this album, its a good album both in terms of lyrics and music, its just not really the Skeletonwitch we know and love. However I do have to give credit where due because there are some awesome songs and bits on here and I think that had this not had so many overly stretched out songs on it it could have been a very cool evolution point for them. Temple of the Sun is probably my least favourite song on the album as it feels like its trying to please everyone but in the wrong way. There are parts where it wants to speed up and thrash around but its held back by the slower melodic direction which is a shame because again there are bits of it, including the solo which I quite dig.
All in all I would have to say that while Devouring Radiant Light isn’t by any means their best work, its certainly a good album and perhaps a starting point for the evolution of a band that is treading into more melodic waters after spending so much time being a band known for thrashtacular aggression, its evolution and musical maturity which when done right is nice to see. They need to either shorten the songs down a bit or bring more variety and aggression into their songs as they have really extended the music here but left voids that should have been filled. If you’re new to Skeletonwitch you might like this album as a starting point to get into them, if you’re an old school fan like me you might have some reservations but I honestly think if you approach it with an open mind then you may also like it, but I also realise there are those who won’t like the new direction.