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Skeletonwitch makes songs about death, hell and evil. Or do they?

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"Nobody wants to hear us sing about gas prices,” says Skeletonwitch guitarist Scott Hedrick, discussing the lyrics of the of the band’s fourth and latest album, Forever Abomination. “We’re not going to sing about it. We just bitch about it in the van.”

Hedrick, while trying to speak broadly and not put words in the mouth of frontman/lyricist Chance Garnette, boils down the essence of songs like “Skin Beneath Insanity” and “Shredding Sacred Flesh.” He says the Athens, Ohio, quintet is all about playing “good old-fashioned evil heavy metal.”

The band — which has, since September, been on tour with Devildriver, Taiwan’s Chthonic, and Swedish melodic metal powerhouse Arch Enemy — is “nothing more than five guys who love heavy metal and love to get in a van and tour.”

But back to the lyrics. “Chance — well, we all did — grew up with ’90s death metal,” says Hedrick. “And like any teenager, he’d buy anything with a disgusting cover. He’d go to a record store, see some sick cover and be like ‘What the f--- is this?! I have to have this!’” “So, I think because of that,” he continues, “he’s tried to stay away from being extremely literal. A song may seem like it’s about sacrilege, death and destruction, being banished to the bowels of hell, or good versus evil, but it’s kept vague so you wouldn’t know the song is actually about, or inspired by, something specific that’s happened to him or us.”

So “Rejoice in Misery,” “Choke Upon Betrayal” or “Erased and Forgotten” may be anti-religion, anti-government, anti-anti-heavy metal screeds of blackened thrash. Or the tunes might simply be about the travails of just completing Forever Abomination.

Hedrick says Skeletonwitch had two goals in mind going into the new album — goals that were almost thwarted by original drummer Derrick Nau’s decision to throw in the sticks after over seven years of service to the gods of good, old-fashioned evil heavy metal.

“Derrick decided he wanted to go back to art school,” says Hedrick. “I don’t think he’s played his drums since. So, two months before recording, we called [producer] Matt [Hyde] saying, ‘Um dude, we don’t really have a drummer.’” Luckily, the band was able to enlist the services of Indianapolis-based drummer Dustin Boltjes, who also plays in Demicrious, to help achieve their original goals.

First, Hedrick explains the thicker, fuller sound the band was going for.

“We wanted to avoid sounding like one of those modern, technical death records that sounds like a team of robots played it,” he says. “Across the board, we wanted a little more heft.”

And second, the band wanted time — to write, to think, to not rush into recording for the sake of making an album but to truly make a record they could be proud of.

“We forced ourselves to be more prepared,” Hedrick says. “We’re the type of band that has every single note written the way we want it. We’ll make adjustments, but we won’t write in the studio. This time, we rehearsed a lot more because we wanted to blow [Hyde’s] mind and not have him think this was amateur hour.”

“The very first day he was, like, ‘You guys know your shit,’” he says. “We were all, like, ‘This is going to work out just fine.’”

Skeletonwitch plays with Arch Enemy, Devil Driver and Chthonic • Sat, Sept. 24, at 7:30 pm • Knitting Factory • $20 • All-ages • • 244-3279

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