Monday 29 June 2015

Skinless - ‘Only the Ruthless Remain’ (Album Review)

‘For the most part, ‘Only The Ruthless Remain’ is an album that’s good at what it feels most comfortable doing, with it’s best moments coming when it steps outside of that comfort zone’

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 2/6/2015
Label: Relapse Records

‘Only the Ruthless Remain’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. Serpenticide
2. Only the Ruthless Remain
3. Skinless
4. Flamethrower
5. The Beast Smells Blood
6. Funeral Curse
7. Barbaric Proclivity

Skinless is:

Sherwood Webber | Vocals
Noah Carpenter | Guitar
Dave Matthews | Guitar
Joe Keyser | Bass
Bob Beaulac | Drums


Skinless released their first full length album. ‘Progression Towards Evil’ in 1998, which puts them in a similar timeline with bands like Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh, and Disgorge as part of a wave of mid-to-late 90s brutal death metal bands that culled their sound from the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and Broken Hope of the early 90s. There were a number of other notable—along with hundreds of uninteresting— brutal death metal bands around that time as well, as the style was going through something of an oversaturation at the time. I can recall reading in magazines during this time that a lot of it seemed to be a result of Cannibal Corpse’s popularity and unprecedented visibility.

As usually happens with these things; once a subgenre’s moment in the sun winds down, many bands disappeared or moved on to the next thing, likely including a few that got their tips frosted, and then picked up some JNCOs and a Coal Chamber album to help their next endeavour. Others, like Skinless, continued to fight the good fight, even as they’re closing in on the twenty year anniversary of their debut album. While they might be capable of producing better-sounding albums in 2015, the musical formula is essentially “business as usual”.

‘Only The Ruthless Remain’ is one of those rare albums wherein  the quality gets better as the album moves along. It’s no coincidence that the strongest material on the album happens when they open things up a bit more in the second half, especially when they start to throw in those suspended 4th chords Suffocation loved so much on ‘Pierced from Within’. The best example of this is “The Funeral Curse”, particularly in the last two minutes, where those chords are really able to breathe before a wah-driven solo takes over as the focal point. It’s kind of reminiscent of Sepultura’s “Desperate Cry” at that point, which is another song built around those same kinds of chords. The album is good in general, but moments like the that are where I think Skinless may find they truly excel. “Barbaric Proclivity” is another album highlight for its surprisingly catchy opening riff, complemented by a bouncing, galloping beat before breaking down into an excellent, but deliberately-paced solo section at about a minute and a half in.

For the most part, ‘Only The Ruthless Remain’ is an album that’s good at what it feels most comfortable doing, with it’s best moments coming when it steps outside of that comfort zone. It’s hard not to be satisfied with what’s already on offer, but as someone who picked up  ‘Progression Towards Evil’ all those years ago, I’m ready for Skinless to take a few more chances musically, especially when the chances they are taking result in the best moments on the album. They toyed a bit with some of these elements on ‘Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead’ as well, so my hope is that this album is Skinless dipping their toe in the water before they finally decide to cannonball the next time around.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.

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