When a band is on the cusp of something really good, sometimes all it takes is a great producer to provide that one last push over the top. Athens, Ohio’s Skeletonwitch has built a steady following over the past few years thanks to a phenomenal live show and such promising releases as 2006’s Worship the Witch EP and 2007’s full-length debut Beyond the Permafrost, but the band’s combination of vintage thrash metal and icy black metal touches has been in need of refining. Veteran producer Jack Endino is on a major metal kick these days, having helmed terrific recent releases by High on Fire, Toxic Holocaust, and 3 Inches of Blood, and as he did with each of those bands, he strips Skeletonwitch of the flashy sounds of past releases and focuses on good, honest traditional heavy metal on Breathing the Fire, his dry tone lending a welcome warmth to the new tracks. The band delivers mightily on its end as well: The songwriting far more focused than before, best exemplified by the rousing “Stand Fight and Die” and the rip-roaring “Crushed Beyond Dust”, the dual leads and riffs by Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnett complemented by Chance Garnett’s wonderfully evil snarl. After several tries that nearly got it right, Skeletonwitch is officially for real.
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