Album Review: SKELETONWITCH Devouring Radiant Light
Skeletonwitch has gone through a lot since their last full-length album, Serpents Unleashed. In the past few years, they've toured in support of some of the biggest bands in metal like The Black Dahlia Murder and Amon Amarth, most notably. In that time, the band had a falling out with former longtime vocalist, Chance Garnette. The band finished a tour as an instrumental band and toured Europe with Andy Horn (ex-Cannabis Corpse) on vocals. Shortly after, the band announced Adam Clemans would take over fronting the band. Clemans is known for his time in his black metal band, Wolvhammer. There were some initial concerns regarding the change at vocalist. Those worries were soon squashed once The Apothic Gloom was released.
The first output with Clemans was a mixture of the old Skeletonwitch fans knew and loved and a bold, new look. The lead single from the EP, “Well of Despair," sounded like a song the band had already cooked up during the writing for Serpents Unleashed. It was a fast-paced, short black/death metal track with huge injections of thrash. The next single, “Red Death, White Light”, however, threw a curveball. To this point, the longest Skeletonwitch song hadn't even broken five minutes and here's a song that goes over seven. Changes like this built the cornerstone for Devouring Radiant Light. With Clemans onboard and a reinvigorated band, Skeletonwitch began to push into new sonic boundaries.
Devouring Radiant Light kicks off with the lead single, “Fen of Shadows.” Standing at eight minutes long, fans of Skeletonwitch will certainly see the difference between the old guard and new. The track is also a great synopsis of what Skeletonwitch does throughout Devouring Radiant Light. While “Red Death, White Light” from The Apothic Gloom gave fans an idea of what to expect with the new album, I don't think anyone quite expected this much of a shift. The core concept doesn't change much though; Skeletonwitch still maintains the level of harmony they had prior with many of these songs. Still, bringing in a vocalist like Clemans meant a huge shift away from death/thrash and towards pure black metal.
With earlier albums, the vocals were in the forefront. This time around, Clemans' vocals rest behind the instrumentation. This is most apparent in “Temple of Sun” than any other song where, during the chorus, even the gang vocals are more audible than the lead vocals. The bass on Devouring Radiant Light is also toned down. A big draw to Skeletonwitch used to be the very obvious and audible bass lines in the songs. Listening through this album plenty of times, there are very few times Linger's bass licks emerge from the background.
While one side of the album is very much a large push towards black metal in songs like “Fen of Shadows," the title track, and “The Vault," The other side is much closer to home for the old school fans. “Temple of Sun” is easily the stand out track of the album. Skeletonwitch decided to try something new since bringing on Clemans, opting to add gang vocals to some of their songs. “Temple of Sun” is most notable for this. Alongside the heavily melodic and black metal inspired instrumentals, the chorus features a gang chant that adds to the intensity of the song.
For the hardcore black metal fans, I would highly suggest listening to “The Vault” to gauge the album. It's the longest song on Devouring Radiant Light and features blistering riffs and consistent tempo. While Skeletonwitch has always been infused with a hint of black metal, this song shows to be a continuation of a burgeoning, blackened side of their music.
As a black metal release, this is a very strong album. In a year with standouts from Watain and Immortal, it's hard to release a top-tier black metal album that competes. “Temple of Sun” is a wicked piece of music that should easily set the tone for Devouring Radiant Light. The title track, “Devouring Radiant Light," and “Carnarium Eternal” all pack vicious speed and power. Devouring Radiant Light is a very strong effort. Any new fans of the band that are into the genre will be into it. Anyone expecting a new Skeletonwitch record will be in for a shock though. Don’t go into this expecting the Skeletonwitch of old. This is a bold, new journey for the band.