Since 2003 Skeletonwitch have been an unwavering musical force, releasing an album every few years with a consistency that suggested their line-up was one of impenetrable solidarity. Fast forward to 2015 and the band shocked fans by parting ways with vocalist and main lyricist Chance Garnette, calling into question whether Skeletonwitch would be able to continue, but continue they did; releasing EP ‘The Apothic Gloom’ two years ago and now follow up album ‘Devouring Radiant Light’ with new vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer). The melodic death/thrash metal four piece won’t allow setbacks to slow their pace, instead they use them as an opportunity to reinvent themselves. “This record is a continuation of where the ‘Apothic Gloom’ EP left off, and that EP starts the second chapter for Skeletonwitch”, says guitarist Scott Hedrick, “We kicked out our singer, and myself and the other guitarist, Nate (Garnette), we walked up to the edge and looked down and we had some serious conversations about whether or not we wanted to continue and if we had something left we wanted to say or do. Ultimately we decided absolutely, we do.” Previously, Scott has taken a backseat when it came to the songwriting within the band. Due to the savage nature of Chance’s lyrics, Nate’s fast and thrashy approach was better suited and so he dictated the majority of the instrumentals. Since Chance’s departure there has been a lot more room for manoeuvre creatively and sonically within Skeletonwitch, so Scott is finally getting his chance to shine as a musician. “I think a lot of the Skeletonwitch material is very fast and aggressive and unrelenting, so it’s nice to have such a change of pace. With that clean channel intro, there’s a lot more layered tracks”, he reveals, “I got to use an EBow on it and do other ambient stuff that I’m a huge fan of; I listen to other types of music more than I listen to metal, so to be able to layer in some sonic textures and noise and ambience and different things like that into Skeletonwitch and bring in outside influences that are non-metal was a welcome opportunity. I had to force it on the guys but they came around and I’m glad they did.”

The most noticeable nuance within ‘Devouring Radiant Light’ is that the black metal undercurrent that has always been present within Skeletonwitch’s sound has now been brought to the forefront is much more of a domineering force than it was previously. This is by no means an accident – with Scott now having more autonomy over the song writing process he was able to inject more of what he enjoys playing, which has breathed new life into the band’s sound. “There’s always been an undercurrent of black metal to our music, at least sonically. I don’t care as much about the black metal imagery and like the sort of campiness that goes with it, although it’s fun”, Scott admits, “Sonically, I think black metal’s always been an influence for our band and since I ended up writing more of the material this time, I’m not as much of a thrash aggressive fan as Nate. He tends to write the more ripping, fast, really crazy almost punkish thrash type songs, so my contributions were never really that thrashy anyway, so I’ve always erred on the side of melodic, black metal, and more elaborate song structure.” Having Adam on board as their vocalist has helped to coax Scott out of his shell. With a lyrical approach that’s less gimmicky than their previous releases the guitarist is more comfortable making suggestions and writing riffs that aren’t necessarily conventional to the mould the band fitted previously. “I think having a lyricist that provides lyrics that have more meaning to them and more depth means they’re not so cut and dry”, Hedrick explains, “In the past, with Chance, he was very good at what he did but what he did was, ‘I’m going to write a song about a demon kicking a guy’s ass’. It was very literal and very trying to sound tough, trying to sound metal. There was a contrivance that doesn’t exist with Adam’s lyrics.”

Two major line-up changes have dramatically changed the dynamic of Skeletonwitch; since recording ‘Devouring Radiant Light’, the band have parted ways with drummer Dustin Boltjes and now have Jon Rice, who has previously performed with the likes of Job for a Cowboy and Behemoth, sitting behind their kit. However, the band’s biggest challenge has been finding and assimilating a vocalist into their fold that wouldn’t warp their sound to a point where it was no longer recognisable to fans. Adam had to go up against some tough odds when starting out, however, he’s adapted with ease. “I think we gave him an unfair deal to start with, because we asked him to join the band and then we immediately asked him to record that EP with us”, reveals Scott, “So when he did that, we had never even played a show together. He didn’t really have a fair chance to find his footing with the band and perform and really work out material a lot. It was like, ‘hey, these songs are mostly written and we would like you to write lyrics and do your thing on top of them’. That’s a tall order to replace someone who’s been in the band for a very long time and a band that’s been around, but especially here in the US.”

Finally being a part of a band where his musical input is respected, while working alongside musicians he’s compatible with and can collaborate with without friction has magnified Scott’s appreciation for Skeletonwitch and he is now in a place where he feels proud of the opportunities being afford to him and his bandmates. “Music for me does many, many things. Sometimes it’s an escape from having a shitty day or a major life event to overcome. Other days I’m in a good mood, it sort of accentuates the good mood or puts an exclamation point on it. It might help people get through a job or a workout or a divorce”, he says, “We hear from people in the military that our music kind of helps them cope with their experiences and even PTSD and stuff. Anytime that someone can take our art and enhance their own life with it, that’s a victory. I think my proudest accomplishment is just the fact that our band is able to do that for people because that’s why I play music and why I wanted to play music because certain bands made my life better and my life has become music so to sort of give back to that in a general sense means the world to me.”