Skeletonwitch - "Devouring Radiant Light"
“Devouring Radiant Light”
I must admit, that, as a listener of metal over the years, I’ve been a passive Skeletonwitch “fan” at best. They never quite struck me as anything amazing but also not terrible. If it’s on I won’t object to changing it and I’ll always enjoy it, but for one reason or another I would never go out of my way to listen to their albums. “Devouring Radiant Light” shifted that perspective and makes me want to revisit their discography now and hopefully appreciate the band more with hindsight.
“Fen of Shadows” is an energetic and forceful start to the album, the song builds with ruinously sombre notes of dueling guitar leads that has an almost unmistakable “funeral doom” sound imbued into the opening, which then frames and assembles the song with a fortuitous quality. At the minute mark the rhythms begin and are intertwined with soft notes the eventually relent into the dueling rhythms, as it builds and builds with unfaltering release into a potent violent burst of kinetic tremolo riffs. Those tremolos speed through until the 2:15 mark where one of the catchiest riffs takes anchor into the song. The riff is so head bangingly good and catchy in its delivery along with the added feeling of being slightly reminiscent of Arsis’s “We Are the Nightmare” (but not quite the same.)
For a song that boasts a lengthy almost 8 minute run time, not once does this song feel dull or stagnant for even a moment. It’s a hell of a track to open up the record with. The occasional enervated leads do a good job of adding that extra amount of acuity to the riffs that are already being slammed at a thousand miles an hour. The juxtaposition of the two diverging sounds integrates with harmonious flawlessness. At the 5 minute mark the song takes a shift that is signaled by everything stopping with a thumping bass lead guiding the listener to their next melancholic destination. One final surge of speed riffs bombards into clean chords with slight reverb and delay that dictate the pace as a swelling guitar solo begins to build. The solo is not feverish or outright shred in its execution, its deliberate and tactful. The solo encapsulates the feeling and tone of the song, with each note being slightly taciturn yet opulent in its implementation.
The following two tracks “When Paradise Fades” and “Temple of the Sun” are solid and straightforward blackened thrash sounding affairs. “When Paradise Fades” has this sick as hell thrash riff near the 3 minute mark that I can only describe as a trashy speed rhythm with this killer slide into (what I can only guess) is the descending/ascending note/fret. Its fucking awesome sounding. The songs aren’t bad by any means and do add to the album as a whole, but I feel there are other tracks worth delving into with greater depth and analyzation in this review.
The title track “Devouring Radiant Light” is a mid tempo almost “slow” song with intermittent moments of blackened thrash, but the leads that interlace and fill in the background of the song gives it the weight it inherently forebodingly exudes. The opening moments of clean melodic guitar lull and soothe you into its auditory grasp. The bass is smooth and powerful as it interjects over the melodies.
The song has a real ambience building feeling with that culminating around the 3 minute mark as the lead guitars soar into the fold with a real elegant quality. The tone of the leads feels once again morose yet epic in its sound with a simple 3 note/chord progression. But it captures a feeling within the sound it emanates. A strong title track to be sure. And midway through the whole record it does jut enough to keep you listening leading into what I think is the best song on the album.
“The Luminous Sky” is the stand out track on this whole album for me, the proficiency of playing on this song and the execution of riffs is staggeringly good. Hendrick and Garnett are playing so fast and so precise rhythmically it was mind blowing how seem-less and proficient it is. Their cred as guitar players and writers should be talked about more, especially after hearing this song. It is a blistering and agile hypersonic show case of thrash and heavy metal at its finest hour. Its so fast and breakneck in its pace that the song feels over in no time at all, when it’s actually over 4 minutes long.
“The Vault” is the longest song on the album, clocking in at almost 9 minutes. Its probably the slowest paced song on the album, but it does have a very epic “ride into battle” feeling because of the pattern of the guitar riffs being played in cohesion with the drums which really just propels the song forward.
The final two tracks on the album are again very solid songs, “Carnarium Eternal” has that same feeling as “The Luminous Sky” with its ferocity and speed so its equal to that song in my ears, but not my 2nd favorite by any means (Fen of Shadows in 2nd) “Sacred Soil” closes out the album and does a good job of framing the album as a whole.
The inclusion of Adam (Wolvhammer) on vocals doesn’t detract from any aspect of the album or the band as a whole. I’m sure long time fans of the band have already been fairly outspoken about Chance’s departure and it “not being the same” and in this writers opinion, I don’t notice much of a difference with him gone. “Devouring Radiant Light” is easily the bands strongest output in their discography and it was a real surprise hearing this record. Don’t sleep on this one or you’ll regret it. "Devouring Radiant Light" Comes out on Prosthetic Records July 13th.