Review by Renee Trotier; Photos by Adam Wills
I am of the firm belief that there is both good and evil inherent in all of us. I also believe that humanity has, for the most part, paved the road with good intentions. But as sweet and as pleasant and as ethical as we were all raised to be, sometimes there is no denying that throbbing blackness residing deep within us. This is one of the reasons I love metal so much, and probably also the reason I will jump at any opportunity to catch Skeletonwitch live. Finally slotted as a headlining band and growing in popularity, I knew that Thursday night’s performance in a venue as small as Club Absinthe was bound to illicit some rowdiness. I was looking forward to the chaos, an escape from everyday “acceptable” behaviour. I arrived that night with the intention of losing my mind.
As it turns out, Landmine Marathon seem to know a thing or two about temporary insanity. Targeting the cerebral cortex rather than the jugular vein, they play the type of death metal that doesn’t just sound heavy but actually feels it. My eye was continually drawn to vocalist Grace Perry throughout their set, her stage antics rather than her growled vocals and lack of Y chromosome drawing my interest. She is the type of front woman who drips with passion and I found myself positively enchanted by the insanity she expelled. She went into an immediate trancelike state, clawing at her face and neck, pulling her hair and at one point strangling herself with the microphone cord. It was a lesson in letting go, and a great way to start the evening.
Atlanta’s Withered were next on the bill, their city of origin offering no clues as to the type of sonic punishment they would unleash. Instead of sludgy and progressive rock ala Mastodon and Baroness, they played a ferocious style of blackened death metal punctuated by dual vocals and insanely fast blast beats. They aren’t a one-note band however, and what Withered giveth they can also taketh away. There were moments of atmospheric melody in which they slowed the pace without any warning, too unexpected to be anything by entertaining. Still, they delivered most their material at a pace which was breakneck, almost dangerous. Sonically, it was the equivalent of a steam roller. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I noticed the strangest thing; no one in the crowd was moving. Not one person. In fact, no one would come within 3 feet of the stage. It was as if everyone was in glued in place by a mixture of respect and fear, an act of caution rather than boredom. It was a strangely refreshing experience, and a fantastic contrast to the set that was to follow.
Skeletonwitch is the type of band that any self respecting metal head should be a fan of. They play thrashy death metal, sing about murder and sport the most bad ass arm gauntlets and beards. I’m serious when I say that there is absolutely NOTHING not to love. Having seen them play a multitude of opening spots in the past, I looked forward to receiving the full Skeletonwitch treatment this time around. I got my wish and just before midnight the band took the stage and proceeded to decimate everything around them. “Submit To The Suffering” gave way to “Blinding Black Rage” which rolled into “Upon Wings of Black”. They played no less than 17 songs, one furious blast after another. Vocalist Chance Garnett is a natural born frontman and knows how to entice a crowd. He paces back and forth, holding invisible oranges to the sky while guitarists Scott Hedrick and N8 Feet Under take turns demonstrating their fret board mastery.
The whole thing felt like it was over before it had begun but I took it all in with insatiable hunger, expelling every frustration and negative emotion I never knew I had. I celebrated the dark nature of humanity and by the end I felt lighter, happier. It was the best therapy that fifteen bucks could buy.