Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Forever Abomination - Skeletonwitch - 2011

I know Skeletonwitch's Forever Abomination should have made my 2011 Top Ten and I had it in time to reasonably weigh it against my other favorites for the year. The problem is, I guess, with a band this good, this consistent, it gets way too easy to take them for granted. Forever Abomination builds from the strengths of its predecessors, hones the band's sound and delivers a fault-free, hard-as-hell heavy metal assault all wrapped up in a killer (embossed, even) sleeve.

Forever Abomination has been reviewed all over the place and the accolades had been pouring in fast and furious by the time I eventually landed a copy a few weeks after the album's release (I was dead set on finding a physical copy in a store on release day and wrongfully assumed that big chains like Best Buy would be stocking ample quantities). I was well-prepared to enjoy the record and was in no way disappointed. It doesn't seem fair, then, to file this away as a "great Skeletonwitch record" and then rank it beneath an Anthrax comeback that was "really good," for example. Anthrax exceeded the expectations, low as they may have been, whereas Skeletonwitch met them, even if they were higher than most bands would ever even aspire to. It's not right and my human brain knows so but stacked the very subjective Top Ten as it was anyway, so I want to try to do a justice here and pour a little more well-deserved praise onto the veritable mountain already amassed for Forever Abomination.

How does music this successful find its formula? Forever Abomination is at once massive and fierce and far afield of the mainstream while remaining welcoming and accessible to any listener leaning toward the metal side of the scale. It's far-above-average composition and execution, of course, but there's also an intangible at work. There's a communication with the collective unconscious, our shared, primordial buried id here. No, I cannot claim to ever even come close to having any reason to imagine seeking the vengeance, for example, that "Erased and Forgotten" describes but, eyes closed and headphones on, I am utterly drawn in in the same way that early Metallica had me trapped under ice and locked away in the sanitarium.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly why I love Skeletonwitch and, circularly, that's why I love them. They're everything and some kind of nothing you've ever heard -  really uncategorizable aside from the all-encompassing metal. There's a consistency from track-to-track - no wankery, no surprises but still lots of variation within - be it vocals, the crisp drums or straightforward or breakneck guitars (with some scattered, stellar solos), all channeled through a production that feels immediate and present, almost like standing live in the studio. Forever Abomination is a brief album (barely over half an hour), comprised of eleven quick songs but it doesn't overstay its welcome, either. It's an almost perfect product: brief, bright and out, leaving the listener's brain stimulated and sated while that deep, dark something in the archaic remnants of the Jungian gut hungers forever for more.

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