An evening with Skeletonwitch

Skeletonwitch, formed in 2003, hail from Athens, Ohio. The band is comprised of guitarists Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette, bassist Evan Linger, drummer Dustin Boltjes and vocalist Chance Garnette. The band gets unfairly lumped into the “neo-thrash” category, but as bassist Evan Linger said, “We’re just a heavy metal band”. He is being rather modest, as Skeletonwitch are one of the best American heavy metal bands I’ve seen in years. Their music is a blend of extremely fast, technical and melodic guitar sounds courtesy of Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette, backed by Linger’s galloping bass and newcomer Dustin Boltjes powerful drumming. Vocalist Chance Garnette does both black metal screeches and death metal growls, which are surprisingly understandable, and has an incredibly animated stage presence. Skeletonwitch is also one of the hardest-working bands in the American metal scene. They have toured relentlessly, which has made them a very tight unit on stage. They just finished a tour with Devil Driver and Arch Enemy, and tonight they are kicking off a handful of headlining gigs to celebrate the release of their third major label album, Forever Abomination, which drops October 11, 2011. After that, there is tour supporting Chiamira and a hop across the pond with the Black Dahlia Murder for a tour of the UK and France. Tonight has brought them to the college town of Lawrence, Kansas. Earlier they had tweeted, “Just rolled into Lawrence, KS. Playing tonight at the Jackpot Music Hall. Come out and have a beer with us!” They weren’t kidding, either. The band members were either sitting at the bar watching baseball, at tables inside the bar or outside in the smoking area, having a beer and talking with fans. I’ve never seen a band hang out with their fans for several hours like this, and I can say they are some of the nicest guys you’ll meet. After a long delay waiting for local bands to get set-up and play their sets, at nearly midnight it was time for Skeletonwitch to take the stage. They taped their setlist to the wall, and hung deer skulls from their amps (the most metal thing I’ve seen since I saw Amon Amarth drinking beer from animal horns), and lit into a ferocious set. The small stage barely contained them, and vocalist Chance would come right to the edge of the stage to lean out over the crowd and sing. The crowd was going crazy, with a half-dozen or so metal dudes full-body headbanging, and moshers right behind them in a pit. It almost looked like a hardcore show. They kicked off their set with This Horrifying Force, from their new album Forever Abomination and continued with Reduced To The Failure Of Prayer. It was a strong set, showcasing songs from their entire catalogue. For me, the highlights were Submit To The Suffering, Sacrifice To The Slaughtergod, Fire From The Sky, Vengeance Will Be Mine and my favorite, Beyond The Permafrost. The band seemed to be enjoying the intimate venue and the strong reaction from the crowd, playing hard and fast and barely pausing for a break. During the set Chance asked if any of the audience had seen Skeletonwitch before, and about 20 people raised their hands. There were definitely some loyal Skeletonwitch fans in the audience, and Chance leaned out over them and held out the mic while they sang along. He was grabbing hands and even got forehead-to-forehead with audience members, including me, during the set while doing vocals. If you don’t want to participate, don’t get in the front row at a Skeletonwitch gig! After blazing through their set, the band left the stage, while the audience relentlessly chanted, “Skeletonwitch, Skeletonwitch!” They re-appeared for an encore and played Choke Upon Betrayal and Within My Blood. Chance thanked the crowd for coming out to the show, and gave them his trademark closing line, shouting, “Drink beer, smoke week and eat some f*cking p*ssy!” This was the third time I’d seen Skeletonwitch live, and the best so far. It was a real treat to see them headline and play a longer set. They are a killer live band and I hope that soon the US and the rest of the world realize this soon. I wish them all of the success that they deserve! Be sure to check out their new album, Forever Abomination on Prosthetic Records when it comes out on October 11th! This Horrifying Force (The Desire To Kill) Reduced to the Failure of Prayer Upon Wings Of Black Submit to the Suffering Crushed Beyond Dust Beyond the Permafrost Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod Strangled by Unseen Hands Infernal Damnation Longing for Domination Fire from the Sky Vengeance Will be Mine Choke Upon Betrayal Within My Blood Review, photos and interview by Crystal H.

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