You know you've made it to rock’s Big Time when interviewers catch you as you're boarding a jet, instead of loading the tour van. And although Athens, OH's Skeletonwitch didn’t happen to be boarding their own Iron Maiden-like 747 when we reached them, they’ve got too much going on these days to make it all happen on four wheels. Their latest long-player, last year's Breathing The Fire, was a standout metal album in a year filled with standout metal albums. Sure, they have chops, gear, and a pro 'tude, but more importantly: they rule. I chatted with guitarist Scott Hedrick as the band was hopping an airplane from Los Angeles to Ohio.
You're swinging through Boston next week with Doomriders, who are not quite the same kind of metal that you guys are. You must have that happen a lot, being the odd man out on a bill.
We feel that way, sure, but we love it, we welcome it. It's fun to mix it up, we use death-metal elements and thrash-metal elements and Viking-metal elements. We play what we like and what we're into and what we feel, and because it's a mix we can play with a lot of different bands. I mean, if you're a straight death-metal band doing balls to the wall ’90s death-metal, you wind up on bills with eight death-metal bands. And it's fun, and I love death metal, but after a while it just blows your skull apart, and you become desensitized with it because there's no dynamic.
When the band formed, was there any discussion of what direction the band was going to follow?
Funnily enough, there wasn't actually a lot of forethought involved, it was just what we wanted to do. I met Nate, our guitar player, who had been in a bunch of other bands, and he had demos of a bunch of songs, and we started writing songs together. And our only influence was that the riffs we wrote had to give us chills or get us excited. It didn't matter if it was a Sabbath-sounding riff or a death-metal part or whatever. We didn't really care what genre it fell into, the only rule we have is that there aren't any rules. If we're into it, we'll do it.
It’s funny to see how half of the reviews mention the way your band is holding the torch for the ’80s thrash revival, and the other half bemoan the album's lack of adherence to strict ’80s thrash rules.
You can't not read reviews because you want to hear what people think and all, but reading reviews is so funny. And it's like religion, you know, because no one's right! Or if everyone's right, then we're all fucked. One guy's all like, "This is just a boring straight-ahead thrash record!" and this other guy is like "I thought this was supposed to be pure thrash, what is this other bullshit?" I mean, it's just music, man, just call it metal if you like it, you know?