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The Wicked Witch is Undead 

by D.X. FERRIS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & peaking in metal shorthand, Skeletonwitch guitarist Scott "Scunty" Hedrick has described his band as "Immortal beating the shit out of Metallica at a keg party." If you need more specifics, then know this: The mere presence of a track called "Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery" tells you everything you need to know about the band, especially its latest album, Beyond the Permafrost. It's the third release from the Ohio-based death-thrash-power-metal chimera, and the band is stalking the country like so many unstoppable reanimated Viking zombies in support.





The disc is the first installment on a multi-album deal with Los Angeles metal label Prosthetic Records, which made a name issuing discs from metal standouts Lamb of God and Himsa. Its current roster includes underground favorites Cannae, the Esoteric and Kylesa.





"We signed Skeletonwitch because we just really liked the sound the band had going," explains Prosthetic's Bob Deutsch at the time of the signing. "Skeletonwitch [has] genuinely original songs. They play at breakneck speeds, like beer, and are hard workers. That's what really makes them stand out."





Guitarist Scott Hedrick says he's confident the label's connections can make the band a national name.





"One of the main reasons is how much attention they pay to the bands on their roster," says Hedrick about Prosthetic. "They understand where we're coming from aesthetically and let us do our thing. We have complete creative control. Also, if we need something, we just go directly to the label's owner. That's a great feeling, and we're very excited to work with them."





So far, the Witch is keeping good company. They just wrapped a European tour with Hate Eternal and Cephalic Carnage, and they're making the rounds with Valient Thorr and Early Man. Most impressive yet, after the current trek, they'll play Danzig's Blackest of the Black mini-festival alongside Dimmu Borgir, Moonspell and others, as curator Glen Danzig's hand-picked guest. Guitarist Scott Hedrick reminisces: "I can recall Nate [Garnett, guitarist] one Halloween, half shit-canned, with half a 30-pack and a Marshall half stack, standing on his roof playing Danzig riffs."





The band formed in the metal-rich town of Columbus in 2003, and briefly relocated to Cleveland -- the Paris of the Rustbelt -- in July 2006, where drummer Derrick Nau studied biomedical illustration. The schooling wasn't specifically to come up with wicked-ass album art; though he's qualified and ready for the duty, that chore is capably handled by Jon Dyer Baizley, the visual artist who's created striking album covers for Darkest Hour, Pig Destroyer and Baronness (the metal-rawk band that his sings and plays guitar for). They had an ace behind the boards, too.





The quintet recorded Permafrost with producer Cory Smoot, the GWAR guitarist whose production credits include crossover revivalists Municipal Waste. On the tour-de-unstoppable-force, singer Chance Garnette burps one bloody adventure after another, hacking up low-register rage from his gut. When his lyrics are intelligible, they're quick, violent images of displaced eyes, severed heads and emerging evils -- not evil but evils. And the music matches.





Hyping a recent show, Hedrick promised, "It's going to be the most thrash-tastic night of metal in quite some time," and it's a boast they live up to.





Flashing their chops, the quintet even plays like a raiding party. Guitarists Nate Garnette and Hedrick rotate between speedy riffs, bang-your-head grooves and glory-or-death harmonies. In a mere three minutes, "Sacrifice for Slaughtergod" charges through so many different styles of metal that you won't know whether to mosh, play air guitar, stage-dive or throw goat horns in the air. Don't worry about looking foolish if you wind up doing all four -- you won't be alone.





Skeletonwitch with Obstruktor, Monolith and Superhappystorytimeland at the Zombie Room on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 8 pm. $8. Call 456-4515.
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