Following an altercation on tour, the band announced their controversial decision to replace founding vocalist Chance Garnette with the younger, less grizzly Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer). When fans were left shocked and sceptical following the news, the 'witch set out to prove any detractors wrong by immediately entering the studio to record brand new material. Clemans made his successful onstage debut during the high-profile Decibel Magazine tour this spring, but this headlining trek would mark his first chance at solidifying a real relationship with the Skeletonwitch crowd. With their forthcoming EP The Apothic Gloom finally about to drop, this particular night in Toronto positively brimmed with hopeful anticipation.
While the mood was light, the music was heavy. Or, in the case of Toronto's own Abyss, it was absolutely crushing. Even after facing technical issues a few songs into their set — a situation that was gracefully saved by front man David Kristiansen's witty banter — the crowd kept their attention transfixed on the opening band, eager to hear more. Once the issues were sorted, Abyss apologized for the delay the best way they knew how — by blasting through track after blistering track of impressive death metal and grindcore. With blazing solos and pummelling blast beats, it was old-school metal for a modern era, and Abyss proved the perfect appetizer for the debaucherous entrée that Skeletonwitch were about to dish out.
And dish they did. From the opening notes of "Beneath Dead Leaves" off of 2013's Serpents Unleashed to the brand new closing track "Red Death, White Light" from The Apothic Gloom, Skeletonwitch proved they could still thrash as hard as they always have. This time around, Clemans dominated the stage with an air of comfort and confidence, his animated performance earning respect from the increasingly rabid crowd. New tracks felt perfectly in step with old classics like "Crushed Beyond Dust" and "Upon Wings of Black," and as they tore through their 17-song, career-spanning set, all apprehension seemed to melt from the room. The band played their style of blacked thrash and death metal with dedicated precision and passionate fervour, and by the end of night, the room was a sea of sweat and smiles.
While longtime fans might have noted the suspicious absence of the usual live closer "Within My Blood," those who might have complained would be missing the point entirely. When it comes to this new chapter in Skeletonwitch's unholy musical tome, you only have two choices; either read on or close the book entirely. It's clear that this band aren't looking back, and honestly, neither should you.