Skeletonwitch & Goatwhore – Live at Manchester Sound Control, 11th April

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Words: James Weaver, photos by Katie Needham

On a week where Britain basked in the Spring sunshine, Manchester was treated to a host of heavy metal. Skeletonwitch, Goatwhore and Mortals were set to roll Manchester back into a grim feeling of darkness. But would the band’s styles of black metal transcend well in a live environment?

Known for their fusion of black metal and sludge, New York three piece Mortals never really set the crowd alight, but given their slow approach to their music perhaps this was the intent. With only a four song setlist, the band focused to providing a slow approach to setting the stage for the bands that followed. Opener 10 Years of Filth was testament to the musical style that Mortals provided; with riffs played down-tuned and to a dragged pace, it painted a picture of two stories. Firstly, it showcased that the band are incredibly talented at what they do, Lesley Wolf’s snarls were raw and fitted the black metal formula well whilst Caryn Havlik’s consistent drumming kept the band’s pace at a slow but consistent rhythm. However, despite having an interesting live sound it never kept the crowd’s attention throughout their set and too often did the band’s sound fade into background noise. (6)

Goatwhore from the offset provided a live experience that was utter carnage from the first note. The band have worked incredibly hard over their 18 year career and their entire set was testament to the band’s drive to create a devastating live sound. With the majority of the setlist comprised of the band’s latest record, Constricting Rage of the Merciless, it enabled Goatwhore to continue their focus for arguably their strongest record to date. Opener Poisonous Existence In Reawakening sent the ravenous crowd ballistic through furious riffs where as FBS showcased the band’s more technical approach to their riffwork. That was Goatwhore’s biggest calling card to their performance; every member of the four-piece performed to the highest musical standard. Sammy Duet’s lead work was exceptional, Zack Williams kept the pace flowing through consistent drumming and Ben Falgoust’s vocals resembled the mouth of Satan. For a band that has played an interesting twist of the standard black metal formula, by fusing it with death metal it enabled for one truly chaotic live experience. Riffs were rapid and mesmerising, blast-beats were consistent, and snarls reigned triumphant throughout. A truly incredible spectacle to witness. (8)

There was a degree of concern prior to Skeletonwitch taking their stage. With the future of long-standing vocalist Chance Garnette dominating social media, many in the crowd wondered whether fill-in vocalist Andy Horn (former Cannabis Corpse) would be able to replicate the band’s signature snarls in a live environment. However, as the band progressed through their set it became increasingly aware that he was more than capable of fulfilling his duties for the band. Horn’s snarls from start to finish were identical of the band’s studio recordings and that it is a very difficult feat to accomplish in a live environment, Beyond The Permafrost was a particular highlight of Andy Horn showcasing his excellent vocal abilitly. As for the rest of Skeletonwitch, each member performed their duties excellently. Scott Hedrick and Nate Garnette’s combined riffs kept the crowd moving, the bass work of Evan Linger’s kept the tone fitting the style and Dustin Boltjes drum-work was incredibly impressive to witness. As for Skeletonwitch’s set, the majorit was focused towards tracks from the band’s latest record, 2013’s SerpentsUnleashed. Whilst this did allow the band to continue their promotion for their latest material it was disappointing that few songs from the excellent Breathing The Fire were absent from the setlist, however what it did allow was for Skeletonwitch to keep up a consistent tempo from the first note to the very last snarl. Skeletonwitch’s unique blend of thrash and black metal was executed wonderfully for the Manchester metal masses and proved that tinkering with a style’s formula is not always necessarily a bad thing. (9)

Please check out our exclusive photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester below:

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