Skeletonwitch, Witchburn, Leatherhorn-June 12th at the Shakedown

“BELLINGHAM! TONIGHT WE HARVEST!” howls Leatherhorn’s Jeff Kastelic, and the band launches headfirst into a pummeling, vicious metallic dirge. It’s a massive turnout on this Wednesday night and The Shakedown is packed with metalheads of all stripes. Although Leatherhorn is a little more aggressive, a little more confrontational than the acts they are opening for, their performances are bewitching, impossible to look away from, and they’re in top form tonight. Flanked by massive, ominous lanterns decked out in (very real) animal bone and skin, Kastelic writhes in the fog as if the souls of the dead were whirling around him, channeling the pure evil of Leatherhorn’s music into a mesmerizing performance, sometimes seeming a gatekeeper between the living and the dead, daring you to step into the realm of the damned.

A tough act to follow, certainly, but Witchburn take them to task. Their classicist approach to metal takes the audience back to the basics, recalling the best of Sabbath and Kyuss, and they throw themselves into their sludgy, groovy anthems as if their lives depended on it. Those who may have been turned off by Leatherhorn’s black-metal leanings were surely brought back into the fold by Witchburn, who  providing a valuable service to this metal show: some music to drink heavily to. And drink heavily the audience did.

At last, the stage was set for Skeletonwitch. If ever there was a band that looked and sounded a great deal like their name, it was these gentlemen. Vocalist Chance Garnette, a grizzled and spindly man with a beard to be reckoned with, stalked the stage like… well, a skeletal witch, spitting blasphemies and regaling the audience with tales of murder and mayhem. The band itself provides the best of both worlds, beer-soaked melodic thrash with a twist of blackened evil. Running through highlights of their past few records (including a few from 2007’s excellent Beyond the Permafrost) as well as a few new numbers from their upcoming record, Skeletonwitch hit every button. Surely no one who entered the Shakedown that night left without having experienced something that left them with a firm “hell yeah” on their tongue, be they fans of fun-loving hard rock or black metal terror.