Skeleltonwitch have had a few lineup changes over their 15-year career, but none shook the band’s fan base more than the departure of original vocalist Chance Garnette in 2015. To those who had closely monitored the band as they rose from a local Ohio act to garnishing mainstream attention, losing Garnette was not just losing a voice, but the voice that distinguished Skeletonwitch in the melodic black/thrash metal genre.
With Wolvhammer vocalist Adam Clemans taking the helm for Devouring Radiant Light, external expectations of how Clemans would fit into Garnette’s role added on to the five year wait between this album and their last one, Serpents Unleashed. The Apothic Gloom EP released a few years back when Clemans first joined proved to be an accurate teaser for where Skeletonwitch would find themselves heading with their sixth full-length album. This is nothing like any of their previous albums, which may be a breaking point for certain people.
That would be a shame, as Devouring Radiant Light provokes a side of the band with its aim much loftier. There’s still the prototypical aggressors like “The Luminous Sky” and “Carnarium Eternal” that the band continues to do well, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary after countless songs of this variety. The crisp guitar harmonies that make up the first minute of opener “Fen of Shadows” is a better indicator of Skeletonwitch’s ideas of sonic evolution.
It’s not just a one-off either, as the band embraces their melodic side in ways that haven’t been explored by them before. The same song also has a wonderful atmospheric break of mellow riffs and bass leads that acts as an act break until the band finishes the song off with gusto and rage. Several songs break through the tight times a listener has been programmed to expect thanks to their previous albums, where a four-minute song was deemed an “epic.” Here, half of the songs are over six minutes long, yet none feel like the band is pushing the music too far.
There’s an undeniable drive from Skeletonwitch on Devouring Radiant Light, as if they had something to prove not only to those hesitant after Garnette’s departure, but to show that they didn’t have to just play the same music with a new vocalist copy and pasted in. Clemans has a different vocal style than Garnette, but his wicked rasps quickly find their place in Skeletonwitch’s ever-changing formula. It may have taken a decade and a half for the band to start taking significant risks, but Devouring Radiant Light proves a gateway into what could be a prosperous period ahead.
(released July 20, 2018 on Prosthetic Records)
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Listen To Skeletonwitch – “Fen Of Shadows”