by Ryan Meehan
In 2003, when American teenagers were raiding the makeup sections of their local Halloween shops to paint up like their favorite black metal bands… there was Skeletonwitch. In 2005, when every burnout who sold enough weed bought an Orange amp and tuned their guitar down to “C”… there was Skeletonwitch. In 2007, when kids with pricey haircuts and freshly inked full-sleeves learned two At The Gates riffs and simplified them with breakdowns… there was Skeletonwitch. In 2010, when sweep-picking Guitar Center employees decided to eschew songwriting and showcase their “chops” in soulless robotic fashion… there was Skeletonwitch. Today, in a landscape that finds them surrounded by a) bands begging their own fans for money, b) vest-wearing, by-the-numbers “retro” rock nostalgia and c) heavy labels blindly signing bands based on breast implants… there, still, is Skeletonwitch, a band that has successfully carved its own left-hand path with an unwavering quality of metal and old-fashioned hard work. This organic approach has garnered legions of fans and an undeniable level of respect in the worldwide metal community from both sides of the stage.
Since signing with Prosthetic seven years ago, a new SKELETONWITCH album has materialized like clockwork every other October. First, there was the group’s sophomore breakthrough, “Beyond The Permafrost.” Produced by late GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot and featuring iconic artwork by John Baizley (Baroness, Kylesa, Kvelertak), the album – and subsequent tours with the likes of Danzig, Dimmu Borgir and Amon Amarth – told the world what the rest of Ohio already knew: that SKELETONWITCH was a metal force to be reckoned with. That album’s “Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery”would eventually be featured in the video game “Brutal Legend,”placing the band in excellent company with digitized versions of Rob Halford, Ozzy and Lemmy. Then came 2009’s “Breathing The Fire,” produced by the legendary Jack Endino (Nirvana, High On Fire, 3 Inches of Blood). Supported by tours with Cannibal Corpse, Children of Bodom and Ozzfest, the album – the band’s first featuring bassist Evan Linger, and also their first to crack the Billboard Top 200 – caught the attention of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, who invited the group to film a zombie-themed video for the song “Bringers of Death” that the band members still haven’t stopped hearing about. In 2011, “Forever Abomination” –produced by Grammy-winner Matt Hyde (Slayer, Deftones) – saw the arrival of drummer Dustin Boltjes (ex-Demiricous), as well as a return visit to the Billboard Top 200. On the road, the group toured alongside Arch Enemy, Kvelertak, The Black Dahlia Murder and Nile before embarking on their most ambitious trek to date: a 63-shows-in-65-days test of endurance that they passed with flying colors. 2013 brought us to “Serpents Unleashed,” the group’s fifth and latest release. Recorded with Kurt Ballou (Converge, High On Fire, Isis) in Salem, Mass. (insert bad “witch” joke here), the album is another blistering helping of two-and-a-half minute blasts of blackened metal amalgamation. This time around, the band also shows off a few new tricks – note the Scandinavian doom-vibe in the opening of “Unending, Everliving” and the devil’s swing of “This Evil Embrace” – but does so without compromising the frosty/fiery/abominable metal spirit or blue-collar humility that has endeared them to so many over the past decade. Ultimately, it’s both a fitting testament to what they’ve accomplished to date, and an exciting nod toward what the future has in store. As for that future, in 2020, when pedal-steel rasta-metal will be all the rage, there will beSKELETONWITCH, still doing what they – and, most importantly, their fans – love, trends be damned. Guitarist Scott Hedrick is part of this metal assault, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions. Continue reading