Early success is a blessing and a burden. Few encapsulate this enigma like Midwest extreme metal outfit Skeletonwitch, who just a couple years ago felt like they were doomed to peaking too early. Their initial works were the glorious result of melding what made black, death, and thrash so invigorating, all while cramming as many riffs per minute as humanly possible. Thanks to member turnover and replacing fan-favorite vocalist Chance Garnette, it seemed like the best was in the past for Skeletonwitch. Holy Hell did the band smack down that assertion with their latest batch of sonic mayhem.
Devouring Radiant Light is the first full-length to feature new vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer, Iron Thrones), and what a remarkable full-length debut for the man. While long-time fans may lament the loss of Chance on paper, Clemans’ fury and fervor are second to none, and his multi-faceted work is astounding on record. His vocals also work magically with Skeletonwitch’s new sonic direction, one that leans on Cleman’s past musical endeavors for inspiration. Devouring Radiant Light is the group’s most blackened and progressive work to date. Sure, frantic thrash hasn’t been left in the (blackened) dust – just listen to “When Paradise Falls” and “Cararium Eternal” – but atmosphere, melody, and aggression play equal roles in making Skeletonwitch’s latest musical endeavor their most impressive yet. Songs like opener “Fen of Shadows” and “Temple of the Sun” recall mid-career Enslaved at their most visceral and progressive, and never have Skeletonwitch been as musically adventurous as they are in stand-outs like “The Vault” and “Sacred Soil”. This is easily the group’s most diverse output yet, but it’s impressive that songs never dip in quality, despite rather large gaps in sonic direction.
Devouring Radiant Light may go down as one of the best records of 2018; yet, it also hints that the best is yet to come from Skeletonwitch. The Midwest act is clearly midstream in their latest sonic transformation from blackened death/thrash to progressive extreme metal. What started as an excuse to gloriously compete for the greatest riff density ever has eventually morphed into quite a different beast altogether. No matter what happens next, Devouring Radiant Light confirms that one of this decade’s most fun bands have become one of its most interesting as well.