Four full-length albums into its career, Athens, Ohio’s Skeletonwitch can’t have too much new musical landscape to traverse after plundering metal’s previous eras pretty thoroughly. Of course, hailing from a town where it’s just as likely to be heckled by a yokel while walking down the street as it is to see a hilljack buy dope off a college hippie should provide at least a bit of inspiration. Skeletonwitch’s purview, though, isn’t the earthly realm; it’s some evil cartoon hellscape littered with doomed souls, misbehaving heathens and people being put upon by evil. It’s not too hard to tell what side the quartet’s on, either. On its new album, the Prosthetic Records’ “Forever Abomination,” an interesting thing happened, though. Chance Garnette’s songs switched tone, going from stuff like “Released from the Catacombs” and “Gorge Upon My Soul,” which sound like happenings being determined by forces outside oneself, to “Choke Upon Betrayal” and “Cleaver of Souls” coming off as efforts in which assumed protagonists are more in control of destiny than a spectator. Whatever lyrical stance “Forever Abomination” seems to give off, musically, the troupe’s simply solidifying its approach to metal. There’s a bit of thrash on “Erased and Forgotten” and updated New Wave of British Heavy Metal on “Rejoice in Misery,” but a pretty big surprise is during the introductory passage of the album’s first track. “This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” spends about thirty seconds wading around in acoustic guitar before moving into double-bass pedal territory. That brief opening, though, is the totality of Skeletonwitch’s experimentation. Working within such strict genre territory, that shouldn’t be a surprise to listeners familiar with the group’s older work, or metal in general. Apart from the new disc, what brings the Ohio band to town is a food drive for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Pairing evil with feeding the hungry is inherently weird, but hopefully, it works. (Dave Cantor)
December 19 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, 9:30pm. Free with food donation.