REVIEW: Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light
On Devouring Radiant Light, Skeletonwitch have truly reincarnated themselves, having finally breached the barriers that had blocked them from exploring the sonic realm of black metal they all too often restrained in their previous work.
Originality8.1
Lyrics9
Replay Value9.3
Instrumentation8.9
Impact8.2
8.7Overall Score
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Tapestries are intricately designed works of art comprised of layers upon layers upon layers of hand-woven threads. When a single thread becomes pulled, the tapestry becomes compromised. If it completely comes out, the work is beyond repaid. If you can weave the layers back together again, the work can be restored. Much like a tapestry, blackened thrashers Skeletonwitch were faced with the choice between allowing the sudden departure of founding member and vocalist Chance Garnette to collapse the tapestry of the band or reweave its structure to continue on. Opting for the latter choice, they enlisted Adam Clemans – of Veil Of Maya and Wolvhammer fame – to pick up the pieces and restructure their sound.

Picking up where they left off on 2016’s The Apothic Gloom EP – which was Adam’s introduction to the band – Devouring Radiant Light disregards their penchant for Big Four-worshipping mid-eighties thrash, opting to embrace the Nordic-infused black metal that has always lingered under the surface of their music. As their first full-length in five years, Skeletonwitch return revitalised, sounding as important as ever submerged in the darkest depths of the Nordic winter.

Opener Fen Of Shadows arrives solemnly, an isolated riff glides along the winter plains melancholically, before a backbeat gives way to a monolithic blast beat, erupting into a creature of its own. This is a formula that can be found throughout Devouring Radiant Light, where melodic melancholic riffs travel across backbeats and blast beats, the dual-guitar work of Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick switching between ice-cold black metal and undulating thrash that chugs and churns with the machine-cog precision of doom.

Adam Clemans’ vocal presence is overwhelming albeit underwhelming, a masterful exploration of the range of howls and growls that comes off a little lost in the mix, the compellingly complexing layering of melodic black metal and speedy-thrash riffs colliding with the ever-intensive drums taking centre stage. If the mix was to give way to the vocals even the tiniest bit more, this would be a contender for one of 2018’s strongest extreme vocals.

On tracks like Temple Of The Sun and The Luminous Sky, Skeletonwitch find in themselves the symbiosis of the sound they’ve been striving to make for years, the blackened thrash becoming thrash-infused black metal, the cold of the Nordic winter fuelling their thoughts both sonically and thematically. Devouring Radiant Light, as an album, is very much concerned with the philosophical war between the light and the dark, in particular, the way we as humans embrace the possibility of the light when in the darkest of times, echoing the band’s own story, almost foreshadowing the album’s prominence as the band’s phoenix rising moment. This thought is surmised best on highlight Temple Of The Sun, when Cleamans growls: “Most things fade with time, the foundations may crumble and the world unwinds/ but through these eyes of crimson light rebuild an empire and dwell within/ passion breeds progress, progress feeds lives, the rejection of a tainted world, breeds the fire.”

On Devouring Radiant Light, Skeletonwitch have truly reincarnated themselves, having finally breached the barriers that had blocked them from exploring the sonic realm of black metal they all too often restrained in their previous work. In a year where black metal is as explorative and as healthier than ever, Devouring Radiant Light is one of its shining standout moments.

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