‘The Aphotic Gloom’ comes three years since Skeletonwitch‘s last full-length release “Serpents Unleashed” and after the departure of vocalist Chance Garnette. There was much buzz about their new vocalist and this four track EP does indeed feature the powerhouse that is Adam Clemans of Wolvhammer fame. The EP itself is something of a mixed bag; I was really on the fence about this one and the it clicked. I didn’t really know the band and from the first track, I wasn’t a fan. However, eventually I was hooked and was able to enjoy what these guys bring to the table. By the end of ‘The Aphotic Gloom’ I became a fan of Skelentonwitch.
Out of all the good on the EP, the self-titled opener “The Aphotic Gloom” is the worse track on the EP. Sadly, it isn’t representative of how good this release actually is. I had a lot of concerns about EP after hearing the opener (repeated word – consider rephrasing).
While being technically great with interesting guitar parts and a lovely clean guitar intro they all feel off and honestly out of place. It feels too “thrash” for its own good with the clean and crisp solos distracting for the more blackened parts and the neat dark atmosphere that unpins this opener. (present tense here into past tense on next paragraph)
Luckily, my concerns were smashed by the very next track “Well of Despair” with its high tempo pacing matched with crunchy fun riffs. I was in and started to enjoy the ethos of the band! This one feels like an Evile track but weaves its thrash roots into something more interesting. For example, the brutality of the interlude; if you’re not headbanging by that point then I am sorry. It is extremely catchy and infectiously heavy.
“Black Waves” has a current Trivium feel to it but then jumps into a post black metal style. This dark and deeper edge provides the other side Skeletonwitch. This side is full of feeling and atmosphere; however it’s a side that is undone by its roots. And there is a battle between “Master of Puppets” lite and a post-black metal hammer (rephrase?).
“Black Waves” is full of this conflict and at times it’s jarring but when these two elements click they can be very fun and really entertaining. The interlude segment until the solo of this track is stellar: neat like bass bit and a super heavy beak away. It’s great; then the solo kicks in and I lose interest. These are birth pains of a band in transition.
“Red Death, White Light” is outstanding and what I was hoping for. It is a track that you can hear elements of peppered throughout the EP; with a riff here and an amibent break there that foretell a track like this will come at some point (rephrase). And boy, was it was worth the wait. It has a beautiful opening section, tight guitar throughout, crushing vocals and a tone that is really inspired. This is the track that I would give to anyone trying to get into these guys. Please keep going in this direction, lads.
What about their new vocalist? Adam Clemans is great and kills it throughout. I believe he really shines through by the end. The first song in particular is just off (no need to repeat the negativity) and the vocals feel at odds with the music and maybe that is due to the line-up change. There is a distinct difference in the band now and when compared to their 2014 release, I can really get on board with this version of the band. This one is a buy and a very strong step in the right direction(repeated sentiment from last paragraph).
The Apothic Gloom is out now via Prosthetic Records.
Nate “N8 Feet Under” Garnette – Guitars
Scott Hedrick – Guitars
Evan Linger – Bass
Dustin Boltjes – Drums
Adam Clemans – Vocals