For many years Skeletonwitch has been a band on the cusp of the elite of American metal bands. From their early blackened thrash era, they earned an army of fans thirsting for some grimness with their circle-pits. A no-nonsense approach and the beer-swilling Berserkers pillaging your town every tour vibe built a reputation of a bunch of guys you not only wanted to support but felt like they could be your friends. Over the course of the last few years since adding vocalist Adam Clemans, their more kvlt musical tastes have refined and now come to the forefront. They have taken great care to remain true to their high standards of writing, lest they let themselves, or the fans down. Continue reading
Oh, Black Metal production values, why do you do this to me? I’m not sure if it started with the proto-Black Metal of Venom, or if it’s a holdover of the second wave of that overtook Norway in the early 1990s, but it’s still here with us. It’s certainly all over Wolvhammer’s latest punisher, The Monuments of Ash & Bone (Blood Music).
It has been one busy year for the mighty Skeletonwitch. They introduced Adam Clemans as their new vocalist back in February, unleashed The Apothic Gloom EP in August, and have toured anywhere and everywhere possible to promote the new material. They just wrapped up their latest headlining run of the States, and I got to catch up with Dustin Boltjes to talk about the last twelve months. Continue reading
After a fairly quick work day and speedy drive to the city we are met with the universal issue when in any city , PARKING! But after spotting a Wookie known as Tim Ledin (also of Ghost Cult) and acquiring a spot we await the start of the show!
Slowly the intersection is flooded with metal heads like zombies at a mall, and slowly we all shamble in to the hopefully air-conditioned venue. For those who have not been to Cuisine en Locale AKA Once Ballroom there’s an upstairs bar to the left of the main door way and straight ahead is the main dance hall, both excellent for watching the bands and having beers. Upstairs obviously having the best vantage point to the stage aside from of course directly in front of the 3 ft high structure.
First band of the night probably had the youngest members out of all of them Black Mass. Brendan O’Hare and two cohorts make up a thrashing mad three-piece akin to Blue Cheer but of speed metal. Brendan’s vocals sound a lot like Max Cavelera and Chuck Schuldiner’s love child of sorts and back up vocals from the bassist really add dimension and punch to the already catchy vocal lines. Ending their set with the sing along of “East Coast Thrash” with a very easy line to remember with three magical words!
Up next is Lich King keeping the thrash train a moving and if you’re reading this and haven’t witnessed them live its like a mash-up of all the good things about Slayer and Exodus rolled in to one! I’m not a thrash junkie like many of my friends may be but sometimes every thing blurs together and in a flash its gone , sadly that was my experience with this band, not saying they are bad or aren’t deserving of praise just not this writers cup of tea, check them out for yourself and form your own opinion. maybe you’ll have something to show me or a song I should listen to that may really get my attention and I will become as big a fan as some of you readers.
Magic Circle is next to take the stage and start of with a quick jaunt of ‘Kings and Queens’ by Aerosmith song then almost as quickly diving in to the opening song of their set. Two more songs in I am bathed in riffage similar to St. Vitus or Pentagram and I am finally in my element and enjoying my self and being swooned by vocals very similar to the late great Ronnie James Dio being channeled from the other side, I was almost sad to see them end but now we enter the main event, the reason we are all here sweating , now .. it is time for THE WITCH!
Between sets people step out side to take a smoke break and that is where I happen to find Adam Clemans having a smoke and had a quick chat about the tour and whats in store on the set and whats in BOTH Wolvhammer’s future and the witch with Clemens at he helm and 2017 sounds promising.
What do I really need to say about this new line up of Skeletonwitch that hasn’t already been said? Yes, Chance is no longer the singer no he probably isn’t coming back to the band, but most importantly, yes Adam Clemens is the best fit for the band for the foreseeable future. Let me tell you why: because he is a new fresh face and well of ideas the band needs at this time. the band didn’t want a chance sound alike they wanted to try and move forward from his leaving and go in a new direction while still maintaining the Skeletonwitch sound, and I believe they’ve achieved that. although at first I wasn’t overly enthused about the choice after seeing Clemens works with the guys and the sound of the songs found on their new EP The Apothic Gloom (Prosthetic) Clemans fits perfectly among the blackened riffs the band had been writing.
Pulling put all the stops and playing a majority of The Apothic Gloom as well as some older material mixed in with fan favorites (with the exception of my favorite ” submit to the suffering” which Adam assures me is going to be on the set in October but they will not be coming to Boston…) an other notable change is guitarist Nate Garnette has picked up on backing vocal duties which also adds to the songs as well as the performance. Sweating through the expansive set and a few beers later sadly the set is over and now begins the mad rush out of the building and back to our homes to try and make it home safe and to bed after an amazing week night show.
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Every year there are highly-anticipated annual tours and every year many of them put together not so great lineups. When it comes to The Decibel Magazine Tour, I am happy to say that each year is a killer lineup and this year was no different. On April 14th, 2016, the Boston, MA crowd at Royale in the theatre district received quite a treat via artists: Tribulation, Skeletonwitch, High on Fire, and the legendary Abbath. From start to finish, this show is setting the bar high for the rest of the annual tour circuits.
Tribulation kicked off the night to quite an ovation for even an opening band. Fortunately, these guys have been around quite a bit supporting bands of all sorts and have constructed quite a second home in the Boston area. Although it was a short set, a majority was tracks from their latest, and arguably best album, The Children of the Night (Century Media Records). Opener ‘Strange Gateways Beckon’ starts off the set with a bang and then comes full circle a short while later with ‘Holy Libations’. Although only five songs in the set, it seemed just right to get warmed up for the rest of the night.
After a quick set up, Skeletonwitch was on the stage destroying the crowds with riff after riff. The biggest part of the set was to see how new vocalist, Adam Clemans, did replacing former vocalist, Chance Garnette. I was very pleased with what Adam brings for the table and I look forward to what comes next for the group. As for the set, the Boston crowd received mostly tracks from the latest full-length, Serpents Unleashed (Prosthetic Records), such as ‘From a Cloudless Sky’ , ‘Beneath Dead Leaves’ , and one of my favorites, ‘Burned From Bone’. The other half of the set was a mixed bag between a couple of albums including tracks like ‘Chock Upon Betrayal’ and ‘Beyond the Permafrost’.
Due up next was the return of Matt Pike and High on Fire. Regardless of what band he is touring with, it is always a privilege to watch Matt lay down some serious riffs. With a new album dropping less than a year ago, Luminiferous (Entertainment One), it wasn’t a surprise to catch mostly new tracks like ‘The Black Plot’ and ‘The Falconist’. However, the group did touch upon every other album in their discography once to provide a full cornucopia of their sound. Some of my favorites of the night were classics such as ‘Fertile Green’ , ‘Rumors of War’, ‘Blood From Zion’, and the closer (and usually fan favorite), ‘Snakes for the Divine’.
Finally, it was time for the almighty Abbath to grave the stage with his iconic corpse paint and silly faces. For years I wanted to see Abbath up on stage with his former group, Immortal, and play some classic black metal tracks. Fortunately, Abbath was the true force behind Immortal anyways, and his set was equally Immortal tracks as there were Abbath solo tracks. Not to discredit the solo material, Abbath (Season of Mist), was one of the earlier albums to come out this year, yet still finds its way into my playlists. From this record, we got to see songs including ‘To War!’ , ‘Winter Bane’ , ‘Fenrir Hunts’ , and ‘Root of the Mountain’. From the Immortal side of the set list, ‘One by One’, ‘Solarfall’, ‘All Shall Fall’, and closer ‘In My Kingdom Cold’. There was not a dull moment in the entire set and it was everything I had hoped for, including Abbath on stage. In fact, this entire tour package did not have a weak point at all outside of the short delays in between sets. Decibel, once again, has cemented themselves as one of the leading annual tours once again.
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
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Fandom is a curious thing. People feel very intense about about a band and sometimes fret when there is a change. Bands change members all the time. That is the nature of people trying to play music for a living under mixed circumstances at the best of times. For thirteen years Skeletonwitch has been one of the most heavy and consistent bands in the American metal scene. They have made some great records, opened tours for major names, and spread their sound around the globe. Fans certainly didn’t want to accept the change when the band suspended and removed former singer Chance Garnette, due to his personal issues, and much chatter on line centered around the future prospects of new music. Cleverly the band didn’t reveal new vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer) until just recently and now have debuted the first new music with Adam, in the form of new single Well of Despair (Prosthetic).
Although this track s but a small taste of what is to be expected later this year in the form of a full EP, ‘Well of Despair’ was recorded at Baltimore’s Developing Nations with Kevin Bernsten (Noisem, Magrudergrind, Mutilation Rites) earlier this year. Musically the track is as much of a declaration of intent as anything else. Galloping drum beats pound from the speakers. All the things that made Skeletonwitch great, this track has it. It’s a quick slab of brutal thrashy black-metal inspired riffage that is sure to make fans headbang like mad and take notice. Clemmons sounds excellent. He has a gnarly growl and a lung power equal to Chance’s. It will be great to hear him tackle the back catalog during the forthcoming Decibel Tour with Abbath, High On Fire, and Tribulation. But ‘Well Of Despair’ is a powerful introduction to the next phase of the band. If you had any doubts about the future of the band, throw them out the window now!
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