Skeletonwitch: A Witch in Time

Originally published in Guitar World, 30th Anniversary 2010 issue

Skeletonwitch discusses the songs and sounds on their latest release, Breathing the Fire.

"We didn't buy white high tops, pull a denim vest out of the closet and become a pizza-loving thrash-revival band,” Skeletonwitch guitarist Scott Hedrick says, and laughs. “That’s never what we’ve been about.” For proof that Skeletonwitch are more than an Eighties throwback act, you need only look past the obvious, though skillful, thrash sections on their latest CD, Breathing the Fire, to see that they’ve woven together black, death and NWOBHM styles to create their own ripping blend of extreme metal.

When they entered the studio to record Breathing the Fire, Skeletonwitch knew they wanted to push the limits of what they achieved on 2007’s fan-favorite Beyond the Permafrost. Accomplishing this goal was a two-part process for the Athens, Ohio, group. The first stage required that they find a producer that would help expand their sound without losing its raw edge. To that end, they recruited seasoned vet Jack Endino (Nirvana, High on Fire), because of his ability to “make a massive record that still sounds oldschool,” says Hedrick.

The second stage in Skeletonwitch’s plan was to challenge themselves as players and composers. “Many bands will only do those Iron Maiden guitar harmonies,” says Nate Garnett, the band’s primary songwriter and Hedrick’s coguitarist. “So in a song like ‘The Despoiler of Human Life,’ I’ll have a harmony section that blasts into brutal death metal which goes into what we call the ‘Bob Seger’ solo. The contrast creates those chill-giver moments that make your hair stand up.”

To deliver the tight, distorted tones heard on Breathing the Fire, Garnett and Hedrick paired some new custom First Act Explorers with their roadtested Marshall JCM2000 rigs. Garnett says, “We don’t use any effects. The JCM2000s create a lot of distortion, but you can still get the clearness and the bite out of them. They’re gnarly, like a pack of wild dogs.”

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