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Skeletonwitch - "Breathing The Fire" (CD)

Skeletonwitch - "Breathing The Fire" CD cover image

"Breathing The Fire" track listing:

1. Submit to the Suffering (2:18)
2. Longing for Domination (2:47)
3. Where the Light Has Failed (2:18)
4. Released from the Catacombs (3:21)
5. Stand Fight and Die (3:32)
6. The Despoiler of Human Life (2:29)
7. Crushed Beyond Dust (2:33)
8. Blinding Black Rage (2:38)
9. Gorge Upon My Soul (3:43)
10. Repulsive Salvation (3:41)
11. Strangled by Unseen Hands (2:56)
12. ...and into the Flame (3:43)

Reviewed by on December 22, 2009

"Their blistering attack may be the same, but the result this time around is much more sonically devastating."

Skeletonwitch is the type of band that values quality over quantity. While thrash metal seems to be going through a phase where everybody is competing to be more epic than each other, the Ohio quintet keeps their sound tightly structured on “Breathing The Fire.” There aren’t any long-winded instrumentals or spectacular instances of technical wizardry; just a collection of two-to-three minute tracks full of gigantic thrash riffs. The songs have a tendency to blend together at times, but a melodic mindset and varied tempos help to avoid Skeletonwitch’s third album from meshing into a ball of messy noise.

A thrash/death metal band at heart, Skeletonwitch doesn’t stray too far from the formula established on their past two studio albums. The songs don’t waste any time starting off furiously, save for an extended drum solo in closer “…And into the Flame,” and end at the right moments, before things start getting too repetitive. A hint of melody allows for a fluid pace, with a few catchy choruses and lead breaks sprinkled throughout the album. The band even gets into a black metal frame of mind with the tremolo riffing and raspy growls, which vocalist Chance Garnett mixes with deep throaty bellows.

The band tends to stick with a mid-paced, often speedy, tempo on the longer tracks, while blazing through a path of burning mayhem on the shorter numbers. Opener “Submit to the Suffering” and “Longing for Domination” start the album off in the latter category, effectively building a rising tension that leads to a satisfyingly aggressive conclusion. The first half of the album is heavy on the quick tunes, though the slower chugging of “Stand Fight and Die” helps to breathe a little air into the choking atmosphere.

While a lot of bands throw all their best songs into the first half, Skeletonwitch makes sure to throw a few heavy hitters into the later portions of “Breathing The Fire.” Wicked guitar solos rear their ugly heads during the thrash combo of “Blinding Black Rage” and “Gorge Upon My Soul.” There are even a couple brief instances of clean electric guitar on the outro to “Repulsive Salvation” and in the closer to show the band’s deeper musical knowledge besides shredding riffs.

The lyrics are the typical “death, violence, chaos” themes. There are some catchy choruses, usually based on repeating the song title, and the imagery can be graphic at times. This is especially evident on “Repulsive Salvation,” with lines about the decomposition of a corpse (“Live eternally rotten, as maggots seal your fate/vermin eat your flesh, skin falling from bone”). There isn’t any deep philosophical reasoning or emotionally prudent wisdom, but most don’t expect that kind of discussion from a Skeletonwitch album anyway.

“Breathing The Fire” continues the streak of punishing albums that started back in 2004 with “At One With The Shadows.” Their sound hasn’t evolved much, as the band sticks with the formula of blazing thrash/death with black metal undertones. Over time, the band has gotten sharper as musicians, a result of years of touring together. Their blistering attack may be the same, but the result this time around is much more sonically devastating.

Highs: Thrash/death with black metal undertones, dual vocal style works wonders, sharp guitar riffs, songs that cut out the bullshit and get to the point.

Lows: Blends together at times, not a major leap forward from "Beyond the Permafrost."

Bottom line: Another solid effort from Skeletonwitch that shows the band reaching a new musical peak.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)