Brutal death metal is one of those genres where I make the band come to me. I’m extremely picky about which br00tal death bands I follow and, in a way, they have to earn my time. It seems that many of the “classic” bands from the ‘90s have lost their brootality, passing it off as “returning to their old-school sound.” Or they choose to cross over into the tech-death world where I rarely waste my time giving chase. But really my issue is probably a deep-seeded mental one that plagues me (that or a tumor, anyway). Let me give an example of the latter case: Suffocation. For years I’ve tried to figure out why I can’t stand Suffocation and the only reason I can come up is that they are from New York. Which gets me thinking about Skinless. Which makes me sad that they haven’t put anything out since 2006’s crushing Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead. Then it dawns on me that the real issue I have with the whole bru/oo/00tal death scene is that I just miss Skinless.
But lo and behold! That moldy, festering death-metal tumor of mine can feed once more. Eat, my precious, and continue your metastatic journey because fucking Skinless is back! But not only is the band back after nearly nine years, but the original lineup (plus second guitarist Dave Matthews – no, not that one) from debut Progression Towards Evil has reunited to bring the pain. But what does that mean for Only the Ruthless Remain? Have they returned to their roots or will they continue that journey set by the deathy/trashy From Sacrifice To Survival?
Honestly? Neither… No, I’m kidding. This is Skinless we’re talking about! I’d say it’s a very natural progression from where they left off in 2006, but with that old flare from the old members. While I enjoyed the vocal performance by Jason Keyser on TtW,HtD (now current vocalist for Origin and still current brother of Skinless bassist Jay Keyser), I can’t get enough of Sherwood Webber behind the mic. He is and always will be the voice of Skinless, and his performance on Only the Ruthless Remain solidifies that. He’s absolutely ball-busting when delivering his signature deep-throated, phlegm-tossing growls over the earth-shattering riffs of “Serpenticide” and “Flamethrower,” and loads up on anguish with Peter Tägtgren-esque shrieks on songs like the title track.
Also a nice treat is the return of drummer Bob Beaulac; who shows the world that he can still leave his mark on Skinless by beating his skins, well… skinless. Look no further than… errrr… “Skinless.” Combining sonic bursts with offbeat thumping, Beaulac reigns in the song before dropping a fucking mountain on its shoulders. It’s so goddamn heavy that it crushes it (and you) into the ground. It’s good to hear him behind the kit again and he does a fine job of delivering up the goods.
As you would expect, you can find plenty of moments of blistering fury, colossal breakdowns, and heavy-as-hell mid-tempo chug-chug-cheery throughout. The quintessential listens that bring together all of these elements would be the two-faced title track (that acts more like two different songs) and “Flamethrower.” The former clocks in at over six schizophrenic minutes and the latter keeps things to simplistic, beautiful brevity. Because of this, “Flamethrower” has to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. For those seeking something in the “builds and breaks” department, look no further than “The Beast That Smells Blood.” It ascends, it drops, and it finally allows you to release your bladder as it delivers the neck-breaking pleaser you prayed would drop.
As with most of the material coming out of from this genre, the compression is enough to send your brains spewing like a popped zit. Aside from that, my biggest issue is the ending. I felt “Funeral Curse” was the absolute best way to put this twenty-year-old corpse back in its grave before daylight broke. It slows the pace way down and fades out perfectly. Then closer “Barbaric Proclivity” bursts out of the soil on a mission to mule-kick every flower-dropping mourner. While it may sport one of the sickest riffs on the album, it meanders a lot and tries to do the exact same thing as “Funeral Curse” just did, but with less impact.
Overall, OtRR is a respectable return for Skinless. It doesn’t lack in brutality nor does it stray beyond the beaten path. The riffs are plentiful, the bass is heavy, and the stench of death is all around; as it damn well should be [And what the hell is your problem with New York, slick? – Steel “Strong Island’ Druhm].