From the other Athens — the one in Ohio — comes the brutalizing, ball–busting Skeletonwitch, one of the most popular indie metal bands now crossing the country with regularity, spreading the headbangers gospel to the faithful, one massive musical melee at a time.
Skeletonwitch returns to the Jinx — Savannah is one of the band’s favorite destinations — Thursday, Feb. 25.
The musicians first played here in 2004, on their initial trek out of the midwest, and it was then that they became fast friends with John Baizley and the other members of Savannah’s own metal monster, Baroness.
Baizley, in fact, provided the artwork for two of Skeletonwitch’s album covers.
Non–metalheads will look at a few of this band’s song titles – “Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod,” “Feast Upon Flesh,” “Submit to the Suffering” — and think yeah, right. Metal. It’s black and it’s ugly. What kind of people are these?
That’s the sort of thing Skeletonwitch guitarist Nate Garnette is used to hearing, and like most hardcore and serious metal players, it makes him laugh.
“I’m sure the old ladies that see us eating dinner in the truck stop just think we’re a bunch of wooly boogers,” he says, “but heavy metal guys are some of the nicest guys I’ve met. Willing to help each other out.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve helped a band re–wire their trailer so they have brake lights. It’s what we all go through, living in vans and touring as much as we all do. I think it kind of makes us a brotherhood, and a lot of people don’t get that – they just see tattoos and beards and empty beer cans and think we’re a bunch of buttholes.”
As far as the songs, “Evil imagery has always been something we’ve been fans of. If you can put what you like to see with what you like to hear, go for it.
“None of us worship the devil, and I don’t even know which ones of us believe in God or not. It’s not really a topic of discussion.”
Garnette writes most of the band’s music, while the lyrics are supplied by his brother Chance, who’s also the vocalist.
“He just takes things from his dreams, horror movies, anything that isn’t something you do on a day–to–day basis, you know?” Garnette explains. “He’s got some pretty out there stuff. Pretty brutal stuff.”
Skeletonwitch is rounded out by second guitarist Scott Hedrick, bassist Evan Liner and drummer Derrick Nau.
In 2008, the band played the Blackest of the Black Tour with Danzig and Dimmu Borgir, and this spring they’ll hit the road with Cannibal Corpse, on the Evisceration Plague Tour.
Skeletonwitch, because of its piledriver, punk–like attack, is usually categorized as a thrash metal band. However, says Garnette, “Metal is basically metal. We just call ourselves a metal band. We’re not just a thrash band, we’re not just a black metal band, we’re not just a tech metal band. We’re just a band that likes to combine those styles, you know?”
Thrash, he explains, “is kind of an attitude, too. We kind of come across serious onstage, but I think we’re more thrash off the stage than we are on the stage. We like to drink beer, cut up and be stupid. Basically act like stupid–ass teenagers, even though there’s no teenagers to be seen!”
Beneath the skin — if you dig past the bombast and the scary stuff — Skeletonwitch’s music is technically complex and a lot more intricately put together than the casual observer tends to notice.
“There certainly are plenty of bands that are just a bunch of noise, but there’s also a hell of a lot of bands who, if you really sat down and checked it out, there’s some really, really good music being laid down,” Garnette says.
“Especially like the new Baroness album — they’re all over the place on that one.
“Maybe they can’t get past the vocals — like with our stuff they’re like ‘Oh, this is just noise’ — but check it out on a pair of headphones or whatever, you can hear what’s actually going on.”
In the early days, Skeletonwitch toured in a pickup truck, pulling their gear in a trailer behind. Now, thanks to a solid distribution deal with Prosthetic Records and a core of rabid fans from one coast to the other, they travel in a 15–passenger luxury van.
Nobody’s holding his breath for a Lear jet, but things sure are better than they used to be.
Garnette remembers when he and his bandmates first ventured out of Athens.
“You go on your first tour and you don’t know what to expect. You think everyone from New York’s an asshole, and if you’re from L.A. you’re going to hate somebody who says ‘y’all’ and has a country accent.
“But the music really makes a common bond for everything. I’ve only met a few assholes, and I’ve met a lot of the cool guys.”
It’s a brotherhood with unexpected perks. “I was thinking about this the other day,” Garnette says. “We’ve become friends with the band Goatwhore; they’re like a sludgier black metal band from New Orleans.
“I used to listen to them before I knew them. And the fact that I can just call those guys up and talk to ‘em now, that’s really cool.”
With Howl and Iron Age
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.
When: At 11 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25