Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light (Prosthetic)

Monday, 23rd July 2018
Rating: 8.5/10

It’s been a slow, somewhat grueling churn since Skeletonwitch was faced with the next-to-impossible task of shedding founding member/vocalist Chance Garnette in 2015 amid some unsavory allegations. The band eventually made the prescient choice of Adam Clemans as frontman, but as we know in the metal world, things move fast, people forget, move on and so forth. So, inasmuch 2016’s The Aphotic Gloom was a quick, quality look-see into the formatted Skeletonwitch, it’s with Devouring Radiant Light that the Ohio death/black thrashers shove and jostle their way into the top, unholy tier of the underground.

Stylistically, Skeletonwitch hasn’t altered course much — the barreling black metal still collides head-on with Maiden’s twin guitar harmonies, which, if we’re thinking of a strong metallic coupling, there it is. Inside, those rich, furrowed chords, snagged somewhere from Scandinavia, drive home their point on opener “Fen of Shadows,” a near-eight-minute plunge into blast-beat hell, rounded out by a lovely, yet somber mid-section. It’s their most dynamic piece to date. “Fen of Shadows” ends up catapulting traditional fire-breathers “When Paradise Fades,” the raucous “Temple of the Sun” and “The Luminous Sky,” the latter rolling out one of Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick’s best riffs ever (!) around the 1:10 mark.

The dynamic sprawl and further vocal affronts from Clemans continue on “The Vault,” an otherwise graceful cut (by Skeletonwitch standards) lifted from the album’s cauldron boil. By then, it’s quite easy to surmise that this is a band with something to prove, extending the black/death pace, bubbled up by a throttling Kurt Ballou production job to boot. The treacherous singer switch now successfully navigated, Skeletonwitch has produced what is clearly their defining work on Devouring Radiant Light.