In their decade of existence, Skeletonwitch have been a very consistent band. Every couple of years or so (usually around Halloween) the Ohio blackened thrashers release a new album to positive reviews, then get back on the road as they continue their steady ascent.

Incremental improvement isn’t flashy, but it’s a good way to build a career, and that’s exactly what Skeltonwitch continue to do with their latest release ‘Serpents Unleashed.’

They come roaring out of the gate with the title track. It gallops along at warp speed, dense yet catchy. Chance Garnette’s vocals are one of the reasons the band’s style of thrash is described as blackened. His rasps are biting and aggressive, but also understandable.

Guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick are versatile players, able to shred when necessary, but also helping create that dark blackened atmosphere. On tracks like “Beneath Dead Leaves” they showcase everything from subtle fills to flashy solos.

The tempos on ‘Serpents Unleashed’ are relentless, but they add plenty of groove and vary the intensity enough to avoid monotony. They do slow things down periodically, such as the intro to ‘Unending, Everliving.’

Skeletonwitch like to work with different producers on each album, and this time around went with Kurt Ballou (Converge). It was a wise decision. Evan Linger is the biggest beneficiary, with his rumbling bass turned up nice and loud. The atmosphere is also a little more ominous than previous albums.

The songwriting on the album is excellent. It’s extreme and intense, but there are plenty of melodic moments and the songs are memorable. They are also short, with most clocking in at under three minutes. The longest track is the album closer ‘More Cruel Than Weak,’ which is just over four minutes long.

‘Serpents Unleashed’ flies by in just over 30 minutes. It’s better to leave the audience wanting more than to overstay your welcome, and this album definitely delivers. It’s another step for Skeletonwitch on their steady climb toward the top of the metal mountain, and before you know it, they’ll be at the summit.

4 Stars