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CD review: SKELETONWITCH, Breathing the Fire

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By Ben Apatoff

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Shame on anyone who pronounces thrash metal to be dead. Bands like MUNICIPAL WASTE and SKELETONWITCH are fanning the neo-thrash flame with strong albums and awesome live shows. MEGADETH and SLAYER are releasing some of their best music in years. A poll in the MI forum is currently deliberating over the best of the "Big Four," with post-1990 material banned from the debate. And oh yeah, every metal band formed after 1986 owes something to thrash, consciously or not. For everyone who wishes that "Enter Sandman" were a bad dream, Skeletonwitch's Breathing the Fire is likely to ignite your thrashing psyche.

If not for singer CHANCE GARNETTE's black metal growl, Breathing the Fire could've dropped in from the '80s. Guitarists NATE GARNETTE and SCOTT HEDRICK update MAIDEN-inspired progressions with a heavier fury, offering droves of palm-muted riffs and sweep-picked solos. "Submit to the Suffering" is a perfectly-paced blast of aggression that deserves to be a permanent show staple, as does "Repulsive Salvation" and excellent TESTAMENT rip "Longing for Domination." But as much as a good band like Skeletonwitch proves that thrash is alive and can still break necks, they also confirm that it was perfected long ago. Even the best songs on Breathing the Fire can't offer anything that wasn't already aced 20-something years ago, and most of it will sound fresh only to the few remaining organisms that haven't heard Master of Puppets or Reign in Blood. But if all you want to do is thrash, the songs are good enough to put Skeletonwitch near the forefront of the revival.

Rating: 3 bone sorcerers out of 5

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