It's time to dust off that old denim biker jacket and grow out that hair. You're going to need those things for the brand new release from blackened thrash metal outfit Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unleashed. This is the outfit's fifth album in a span of 10 years, yet the band has still lost no energy in its reign of all things metal.
Their last release in 2011, Forever Abomination, left me with the feeling that Skeletonwitch was running out of fresh new ideas, but let me reassure you, that shit was nipped in the ass pretty fast with Serpents Unleashed. This album is certainly not my favourite from the band's discography, but (and that is a pretty big "but") it is a return to the olden days of Beyond the Permafrost. This time around, Skeletonwitch has gone for a lot more of a melodic and thrash approach to the album, leaving behind a fair mix of thrash and black metal; that's not to say the band stopped at that, though, as there are hints of black metal in songs such as "This Evil Embrace" and "Beneath Dead Leaves."
The production – especially in the vocals, which were usually muddled under the rest of the band in some past releases – has vastly improved on this release. The vocal style hasn't changed too much; it's just as ferocious as ever and still doesn't have a lot of variation, but that is totally forgivable in the case of the genre. The guitars are tight and super melodic throughout the album and one of my favourite guitar solos from any Skeletonwitch release can be heard in "From a Cloudless Sky." Switching from traditional metal rhythms, thrashing double bass and black metal blast beats, the drumming is just as majestic as ever. Another thing I enjoyed was the audible bass; it's nice to see that all the instruments are at the forefront of this metal onslaught.
To be upfront, Serpents Unleashed is not perfect. Skeletonwitch sometimes falls into the dreaded act of getting repetitive at times, but this is truly the only complaint I have. The album flows extremely well and feels like a body of work, rather than individual songs. The one thing that separates Skeletonwitch from other bands of the genre is the constructing of a flow within albums and the musicianship that goes into these beasts of work. Serpents Unleashed fixes most of the problems that were found on past releases and still keeps true to the band's sound. Skeletonwitch isn't breaking any new ground, but the members are digging a six-foot trench for all their naysayers.
For fans Of: Goatwhore, Kvelertak, Amon Amarth