Today marks the release of the fourth Skeletonwitch album, “Forever Abomination.” I’ve had my eye on Skeletonwitch since I first learned of them after the release of their second album, “Beyond the Permafrost.” I thought that with a little work they could become one of the best metal bands around. I still think that, but unfortunately I’m still waiting for that to happen. I think the best way for me to explain is to split this review into two sections: the music, and the vocals.
The music on “Forever Abomination” is, as it always has been, killer. It’s well recorded and crystal clear. You can make out all the different elements, which is great because they all have something to contribute and make up the core of what is great about Skeletonwitch. I love the guitar work on all their albums.
The vocals, however, is another story. My perennial problem with Skeletonwitch has always been about the vocals. I have nothing against Chance Garnette, and I think he does a great job as the voice of the band. The harshness of his vocals is a good mix with the thrashy music. I don’t take issue with Chance at all; it’s what they do to Chance when mixing that drives me crazy.
On this and the last two albums (I haven’t heard “At One With the Shadows”) the vocals are mixed well below the music and I just don’t understand why. Sure, the music is great, let us hear it, but vocals are the focal point of non-instrumental music and should be front and center in the mix. In the case of Skeletonwitch the music sits on top of the vocals when it should be the vocals sitting on top of the music. I keep thinking that the next album will fix the problem and I will just be completely floored by how awesome it sounds. But then the next album comes out and the vocals still play second fiddle. It’s heartbreaking, because if they would just push the vocals out front I would finally be able to promote them to “one of the best metal bands around.” (To be fair, I feel like the vocals are less buried than in the past, but they still need to come up more.)
I wonder how they sound live? Sometimes when a band buries the vocals on an album they sound better on stage. And sometimes, I’m looking at you Korn, they bury the vocals live too. Anyway, if you can get past the fact the vocals sound like the singer is sitting in a box behind the drum kit, there is lots to like here. Hope springs eternal, and I’m hoping next time around the vocals sit on top.