(4 out of 5)
There are a lot of revivalist metal bands treading the boards these days, but very few who manage to evoke the spirit of classic metal without sounding like complete copycats. Skeletonwitch are very much on a revivalist tip, but instead of trying to emulate the mid-‘80s output of Combat Records, the Ohio combo has hit upon a much more satisfying approach. By combining several of the best aspects of metal’s many microgenres – breakneck speed-metal riffs, crushingly fast thrash-metal drums, blackened vocals, the melodic solos of power metal – Skeletonwitch’s music touches a nerve of primal recognition in most metal fans, but still manages to sound fresh. BREATHING THE FIRE,the band’s third full-length studio album, showcases a powerful and self-assured attack that’s obviously been honed by incessant touring. Cuts like “Repulsive Salvation” and “Released from the Catacombs” are brief – clocking in at just around three minutes each – but they still pack in dense, modular structures beyond the verse/chorus/solo grind. “Longing for Domination” and “Crushed Beyond Dust” come the closest here to evoking heavy metal’s glory days, but despite the ripping solos and crunching riffs, the arrangements are purely modern. For longtime metal fans, the current passion for the genre’s classic sound is a mixed bag; hearing things that are familiar is always nice, but it’s even better to hear something new that speaks to the sounds that you love. BREATHING THE FIRE manages to do just that.