Skeletonwitch have raised their bar pretty high on Devouring Radiant Light, their latest full-length for Prosthetic Records. In the past, they always managed to balance a pretty extensive cross-section of metal genres in crafting their signature sound, but this latest album, as well as being an absolute belter to listen to, takes this approach even further. Not since Kvelertak’s 2010 eponymous debut have I heard a metal record that comfortably straddles so many aspects of extreme metal while still remaining appealing to fans of each of those sub-genres.
On Devouring Radiant Light there are facets of icy Scandinavian black metal (the title track a perfect example of this frostbitten atmosphere), churning, groove-laden low ends (the galloping verses on “Fen of Shadows”), vigorous thrash riffing (“When Paradise Fades”) and surprisingly sensitive melodic death melodies (“Temple of the Sun” or the nine-minute epic “The Vault”) all vying for attention – while contrasted with a sprinkle of Bay Area death nastiness. So, viewed in this (devouring radiant) light, there really is something for everyone.
The other achievement showcased here is the successful incorporation of new vocalist, Adam Clemans, into the mix: while this is definitely not the Skeletonwitch long-time fans may have grown to love, it is most definitely a new stage in the band’s development and it still sounds incredible: searing, rasping vocals over non-stop extreme metal. “The Luminous Sky” and the three-minute assault of “Carnarium Eternal” best exemplify this – these two tracks could easily have been lifted off 2007’s Beyond The Permafrost and just been given a fresh mastering and cleanup.
Step into the dark that is the “Fen of Shadows” visualizer.
That does bring up the one overwhelming negative criticism I do have , though: the polish on the production. While its crispness and professionalism are to be commended for an improved listening experience, it all feels a little too perfect. Skeletonwitch have always carried a touch of grit and grime in their sound historically, and its absence is notable on Devouring Radiant Light. Personally, despite its undeniable cross-genre appeal, I found myself hoping for something slightly rawer – some less-refined nuance that would make the album’s overall blackened tone more authentic, without becoming just another lo-fi second-wave clone. Maybe it’s just the band’s maturity making itself known, but if that’s the case, I’m rooting for a mid-life crisis full of regrettable decisions anytime now.
Other than this, though, Devouring Radiant Light is all it should be: a foundation as dark and thick as molasses but pierced through by scintillating melodic structures, all tied together by a machine-like, precise rhythm section . As gorgeous as a picture as this description paints, though, I can’t shake the feeling that Devouring Radiant Light is a bit too clean for Skeletonwitch; its incongruity belongs in a world of Dark Funeral without corpsepaint, Rammstein without pyrotechnics or Cypress Hill without marijuana. It works, but not the way it’s expected to.
It’s from a different album, but here’s the “Well of Despair” video.
Devouring Radiant Light Track Listing:
01. Fen of Shadows
02. When Paradise Fades
03. Temple of the Sun
04. Devouring Radiant Light
05. The Luminous Sky
06. The Vault
07. Carnarium Eternal
08. Sacred Soil
Run Time: 46:03
Release Date: July 20, 2018
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
1. The absence of John Dyer Baizley’s amazing cover art also has a negative effect, unfortunately, but not to the same degree as the production values.
2. Sadly, this description could cover almost any quality melodic death metal release in the past few years – itself a bit of a condemnation of Devouring Radiant Light’s less than impressive impact.