Skinless – Only The Ruthless Remain (2015) – It’s been eleven years since we’ve heard a new record from these New York death metal legends, and I’ve got to tell it to you straight; Only The Ruthless Remain doesn’t disappoint.
Now you’re getting this review from a man who has never heard a Skinless album other than this one in his entire life, but judging it by the principles of death metal alone, I’d say that these guys got together and put out a rather notable effort. “Serpenticide 4:40” offers the meaty death metal that you’d crave for such a release, yet it comes packed with structure and even offers up some slightly progressive tinges that I do not feel hinders the process or makes it sound any less death metal. It’s just brawn with a little more brain and I’m going to have to respect that.
If you want to hear the more bare-bones approach, go for it. But this little nod to intelligence in musical structure really caught my attention and showed a band that can not only punch my teeth in, but can also challenge my brain at the same time. The title track (6:23) continues that fierce tooth-bashing, as noodling becomes apparent and eerie doom torrents rumble out the end. This is definitely the theme to the Apocalypse… or maybe Apocalypse himself. Either is terrifying. Then the band does something completely unexpected and creates a track after their namesake. So, does “Skinless 4:42” actually live up to Skinless?
Well, if you’re expecting a tyrannical theatre of thunderous death metal torment, then I’m pretty sure you’re going to enjoy the speedy thrash riffs and a slew of sobering breakdowns menacing enough to fill a gorge. The gravel is plenty thick throughout this disc, which is definitely the kind of vocal element that you not only want to hear on the album, but will expect to hear on stage as well. If “Flamethrower 4:18” is any indication as to what we can expect from these guys in a live setting, then we’ll just hope that the leave the oddly placed core-screaming section out of the mix. Even though the solo seems to erase that from my mind, if only briefly.
“The Beast Smells Blood 5:04” has a rather bizarre blood-curdling scream, but I’ll say that musically it picks up and delivers well enough that I cancel out the intro for what amounts to chunky old death metal the way that grandma used to make. It’s like a good chili, with meat and beans and blood… and where there’s blood, there’s iron. Which is definitely what you’re getting here – a tire iron right to the fucking face, with a nice solo to help you feel better about yourself right after the pounding.
“Funeral Curse 6:10” actually slows things down a little, almost to inaudible territory. But this is when things take a creepily acoustic turn that eventually embodies doom (have you noticed all the doom influence on this record?) and rolls right into fist-crushing death metal mayhem. At this point, there’s really no need to further describe the bone-crunching sound that you’re going to find on Only The Ruthless Remain but I feel I do need to mention the endpoint of “Barbaric Proclivity 4:19,” if only for the fantastic solo section that seems a fitting denouement to what in the end, becomes another memorable slab of death in the Skinless catalog.
You would think that nearly fifteen years of studio silence would see the band rusty and forgetful, but this record certainly seems like business as usual from a death metal standpoint and delivered the kind of performance that I wanted to hear. It’s short, but it’s definitely not sweet. It’s Skinless… and they’re back. Of that, I can assure you.
(7 Tracks, 35:00)