Review: “Devouring Radiant Light” by Skeletonwitch

It might not seem possible but Athens, Ohio extreme metallers Skeletonwitch have been on the scene for 15 years, though only guitar duo Nate Garnette & Scott Hedrick remain from the original incarnation of the band. The latest set of changes has seen the vocal position filled by Adam Clemans, who while perhaps is best known for his stint in Veil Of Maya, as also joined played his part in Shaidar Logoth, Wolvhammer, Liar in Wait, Iron Thrones & El-Ahrairah, while drummer of 7 years Dustin Boltjes has dropped out. You might also be surprised to know that “Devouring Radiant Light”, the follow up to their 2016 EP “The Apothic Gloom” is only Skeletonwitch’s sixth full length album.

After an epic guitar build of cathedral grandeur that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, followed by some pounding drum fills, Adam Clemans delivers a thunderous roar and “Fen of Shadows” gets “Devouring Radiant Light” under way. Through elements of interwoven Black Metal and “Master of Puppets” era Thrash, Adam Clements roars and snarls the dark and cautionary lyrics and there is a sense of awe and wonder that doesn’t stop for the full 8 minutes. Nate Garnette & Scott Hedrick deliver an axe wielding master class.  “When Paradise Fades” then picks up the pace with a faster delivery and an opening riff that sounds like Motorhead playing a Metallica cover. Clements delivers his cautionary tale over jack-hammer drum work from either sticksman since 2011 Dustin Boltjes or possibly ex-Job For A Cowboy man  Jon “The Charn” Rice in fine fashion. The style is more inclined to suggest the later, however he is only listed as a “live” member of Skeletonwitch at this point. If it wasn’t for Clements vicious unclean vocals on “Temple of the Sun” you could be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to Trivium. The music well crafted and finely honed, finished with an epic guitar solo in Black Metal perfection, helped only by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou’s robust production. There is little doubt that the line “We Shine, like the Temple of The Sun” will represent a sing-a-long of epic proportions.

Album title track “Devouring Radiant Light” is a suitably epic follow up as Clemans dark tale continues to demonstrate not only his vocal prowess but also his fine story telling abilities. If anyone doubted his ability to fill the shoes of original and much loved vocalist Chance Garnette who exited under a cloud in 2014, charged with assault and battery on a family or household member, then this puts that to rest. “The Luminous Sky” ups the 80’s Thrash to dramatic effect with an instantly headbangable “Whiplash” era riff and an underpinning of powerhouse drum work. A special mention for bassist Evan Linger’s contributions should also be mentioned, this is one of his finest album performances. In terms of sonic scope alone, “Devouring Radiant Light” has to be up there with the best albums released this year. That’s not to mention the sheer epic nature of the beast. At just shy of 9 minutes “The Vault” represents the longest of the albums 8 tracks. It delivers a vibrant, glorious selection of diverse guitar work while using a deliberate break during which only the drums are heard as it moves effortlessly between the epic verses and the stomp laden chorus. The musicianship is frankly incredible as the Skeletonwitch fill a solid song structure while giving Clemans vocals space to breathe.

“Carnarium Eternal” probably features the Thrashiest riffage on “Devouring Radiant Light”. The albums shortest piece is actually one that could have been lengthened out as when it finishes, almost abruptly rather than having the fade of some of the other tracks, it has the effect of turning a the house lights on at the end of a gig. Fortunately there is still more and in “Sacred Soil”, Skeletonwitch continue the quality with blast beats and black metal riffage aplenty while Clemans dark lyrics discussing our mortal coil is perhaps a fitting close. The virtuous nature of the song is everything that opener “Fen of Shadows” is, continuing the grandiose arrangements and throat shredding vocals over ascending guitars.

When you have a trio as strong as Kurt Ballou, Fredrik Nordström & Brad Boatright on board to help with your album, it has to give you every confidence in what you’re about to undertake. None of them are going to want to risk damaging their glowing reputations for any old run of the mill nonsense, so when you have them, it should push you to produce your best work and be inspired. “Devouring Radiant Light” is exactly that. Inspiring, virtuous and grand, an undertaking of the finest order that knows no limits or boundaries in creating a soundscape that is as diverse as it is bold. It’s not often that a Metal band at this point of their career is able to produce something that takes them to the next level but Skeletonwitch have done so with style. [9/10]

Track listing

  1. Fen of Shadows
  2. When Paradise Fades
  3. Temple of the Sun
  4. Devouring Radiant Light
  5. The Luminous Sky
  6. The Vault
  7. Carnarium Eternal
  8. Sacred Soil

“Devouring Radiant Light” by Skeletonwitch is out now via Prosthetic Records and available over at bandcamp.

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