Since hearing ‘Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod’ on a compilation a few years ago I’ve had my eye on this band in a big way. Skeletonwitch have always been standouts in my eyes, and it’s my firm belief that in years to come they will be one of the prominent exponents of the New Wave of Thrash Metal. What has always set them apart from the hi-topped battle jacket-clad crowd is their masterful incorporation of different elements of metal, effortlessly intertwining thrash, black, death and NWOBHM. Brown-tonguing aside, therefore, the question here is is Forever Abomination any good?
Well, admittedly this one is hardly hot off the press, so odds are most of the die-hards will have rinsed this like a milky sweater already, but those of you who’ve yet to give this one a spin, prick up your ears. Forever Abomination starts promisingly, with a skulking acoustic intro, a Skeletonwitch trope which has been sadly absent since their early EPs. This for me is always a positive early indication, often demonstrating a bands’ versatility from the get go (just think of Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and The Blackening for example). As ‘The Horrifying Force’ drops, the ‘Witch treat us to one of their most evil riffs to date. Obviously Black Metal elements have always been to the fore of their sound, but this is one of the most blackened sounding tracks thus far. What’s more the guitars sound brighter, lending themselves more readily to this vibe. As the opening track fades its outro echoes the clean electric passages visited on Breathing the Fire, demonstrated on tracks such as ‘Repulsive Salvation’.
The production values on this record actually differ quite considerably from their two previous full lengths. And it’s my sad duty to report that these are mostly changes for the worst in my opinion. Chance Garnette’s voice is less ferocious than usual, sounding a bit too much like Angela Gossow for comfort in places. This edging towards cleaner, more mainstream production is also audible in the kick drum which is definitely clickier here. This is a shame because Skeletonwitch have always prided themselves on incorporating elements of mainstream metal without adopting these production methods, and it’s perhaps regrettable that they’re beginning to emulate the flock somewhat. That said, however, the material will very likely translate well to a live setting as the musicianship is irreproachable, with Dustin Boltjes on drums (replacing Derrick Nau) demonstrating that he’s a more than adequate replacement, alternating effortlessly between mid paced thrash to blastbeats. Furthermore, the bass sounds much more prominent and actually saves the day during some of the more mundane passages.
The lyrical content doesn’t differ a great deal between tracks, in fact it’s more or less all metal business as usual with demons, Satan and murdering your enemies high on the bill. However it’s a testament to the variety of weapons in Skeletonwitch’s arsenal that there is enough musical and vocal variation between tracks to stop this potential drawback dead. Despite this potential disparity however, there is an overall flow to this release, and in fact some riffs display themselves as blatant Skeletonwitch stock, tending to blend together somewhat if you take your eye off the ball. So the balance between incorporating their stylistic range and maintaining flow does slip somewhat on occasion. This effect is nullified completely by the time track 8, ‘Cleaver of Souls’ rolls around with the second half of the song coagulating into a languorous jam followed by another clean part and a rapturous solo which demands you sit up and take notice. Personally I don’t dare disobey! There’s also a nasty little ear worm in the form of ‘Infernal Resurrection’s intro. After a few listens I guarantee the opening lines will start to repeat on you like a dodgy doner kebab. Although hooks aren’t as prominent as Beyond the Permafrost, they are more frequent than on Breathing the Fire.
In summation, therefore, this is a competent, and frequently blistering piece of work, combining the brutality of Breathing the Fire with the versatility and catchiness of Beyond the Permafrost and wrapping it up in a nice shiny package. This will only serve to reinforce Skeletonwitch’s reputation, and will be a welcome addition to any fan’s collection. If you’re a Skeletonwitch virgin however, you might just do better to pick up a copy of Beyond the Permafrost.