RSS Feed

Only The Ruthless Remain

Relapse (2015)
Rating: 7.5/10

It’s always good to see a band returning from a hiatus with the line-up that made its earlier outings so potent. New York’s Skinless formed in 1992 but may or may not be regarded as an old school death metal act by some, because their debut outing didn’t emerge from the cracks until 1998’s Progression Towards Evil.

Even so, Skinless has always offered up those manky rolling riffs and hints of technicality, taking them to the fringe of the classic death metal era which ran from the later part of the 80s into the early 90s.

Only The Ruthless Remain is the fifth instalment from this quintet, and it’s one that successfully marries the better rounded contemporary style with that brutal mid-90s edginess. We’re talking about the main ingredients required to construct a very good death metal act, which are heaviness, violent outbursts, slower and menacing segments, and a tinge of complexity.

This rather infectious and infected seven-track opus features the talents of vocalist Sherwood Webber, bassist Joe Keyser, drummer Bob Beaulac, and guitarists Dave Matthews and Noah Carpenter. If anyone was brave enough to watch the video for their self-titled track, then you know what grisly ingredients the band has inserted into various orifices to come up with such a monstrous record.

This is pretty violent, rampant death metal featuring rough, chesty vocals which sound as if any minute they are coughing to belch up the innards, while the guitars trudge like some demented killer hunting his human prey through a foetid swamp. Meanwhile, the faster passages which bring the rancid percussion are the moment when the psychopath entraps his victim and begins to lacerate, mutilate and devastate the writhing carcass. The ominous thudding bass symbolises the last throbs of a heartbeat before the corpse is rendered lifeless.

With so many gore-obsessed death metal acts suffocating the planet, it’s nice to hear a band which gets it right. While this opus is a tad short at 35 minutes, there is enough meaty content to get your teeth into while the massacre lasts.

We begin with the foetid ‘Serpenticide’, which comes out of the blocks like a rabid pig, snorting and heaving in squalid turmoil as the guitars rage and drums clatter at such a pace that no electric fence is going to hold this fitting beast. It’s pretty much run of the mill death metal I guess, but the mix of guttural and rasping vocals add to the insanity as do the slower injections where the guitars plod with sinister urges. It could be argued that there’s blandness about Skinless. After all, they most certainly aren’t out there in the darkness trying to reinvent the wheel, but the music is catchy and sick enough to warrant further investigation and so I’m donning my rubber gloves and lunging headlong into the stinking corpse of the platter.

The first organ of interest I’ve come across is that doomier guitar whine at the three-minute mark, almost bringing with it a classic metal feel until the wailing solo pierces the skin and the remaining tissue is trampled by the chugging riffage. Beyond the splintered ribcage I find the epic title track; a six-and-a-half minute classic which begins with unexpected brooding atmosphere provided by a doom-laden riff, this slow-motion apocalypse doesn’t last long as the hordes of ravenous dead come spilling from their pens eager for flesh – the guitars, bass and percussion purely rampant and relentless and working in grim tandem with those ghastly vocal bellows.

Again though, the band also incorporates a timely and much required slowness, the mix of both tempos making this an extremely entertaining and accessible composition before the ravaging qualities of ‘Skinless’ – which begins with a sinister, jerking melody – but then it’s pretty much back to type.

I guess after a few tracks I’ve already fathomed where this album is going, but it’s fair to say that Skinless offer something which so many modern death metal bands do not, and that’s that ability to successful join that mid-90s grate with a more contemporary aggression but without giving way to gloss and clinical alienation. Indeed, the groovier segments of the album means that while the band sacrifices weight at times, they are able to entice the listener in with those deep, rolling constructions. ‘Flamethrower’ is another prime example; the music this time grinds along, akin to Bolt Thrower with extra doses of pace.

‘The Beast Smells Blood’ appears initially far more rampant, however, and is probably my favourite number as it begins with a torrent of wild screams, blazing guitars and violent percussion. When the slower segment comes it once again drags us into its gore-soaked mire, but it’s at this point where it becomes evident that there’s not been any sort of deviation. The fast-fast-slow-fast tempo starts to wear thin as I realise that for all of its highs, there are too many times with Only The Ruthless Remain that the band seems to lack ideas – with the solos even becoming a tad predictable.

For me, the reason a track like ‘The Beast Smells Blood’ works so well is because of its persistent pace, the band not needing all too often to slow into those more instant passages. I nevertheless appreciate Skinless for what they do. In all honesty, there’s only so much nowadays that a band can do within the death metal genre; the dankness of older times seemingly lost without a trace as numerous acts attempt to recreate the past without any real idea.

Skinless’ latest offering is one that isn’t as gruesome as some may expect, and it’s not as severe in its construction either. Some may indeed wallow in its murkier, doom-laden divisions while others may crave more speed, but either way, it’s very much a return to the later 90s savagery and style which made the guys popular.

Neil Arnold

<< Back to Album & EP Reviews

Related Posts via Categories