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].


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: SkinlessOfficialFacebook.com/Skinless
Release Dates: EU: 2015.05.29 | NA: 06.02.2015

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  • Grymm

    “(plus second guitarist Dave Matthews – no, not that one)”

    Okay, I want a br00tal death metal band with THAT Dave Matthews on acoustic guitar.

    • Grymm

      Also, I remember seeing Skinless live many, MANY times live at the Worcester Palladium years ago. I loved watching Sherwood dive off of *everything* (the stage, speakers, the balcony, rafters) and onto people. Plus, this little chestnut…

      “This is a little ballad to the ladies… eveyone? THIS. IS. ‘TAMPON LOLLIPAAAAAAAAHPS’!!!”

      Glad to see them back. And great review!

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Yeah, this is another case of fanboyism for me. I haven’t stopped listening to this in weeks. Very glad their back.

      • Rob

        Ah, the Palladium. Probably my favorite venue ever. Kicked out of there many times a while back and to finish my night across the street at Irish Times.

        • Grymm

          1) I miss Irish Times.

          2) So many memories of the Palladium: Samael/SYL/Cathedral, In Flames (Colony tour), almost getting my neck broken and an eye lost during Heaven Shall Burn’s set at the 2008 New England Metal and Hardcore Festival… I miss it. *sniffle*

          • Rob

            That Fest was the pinnacle of great shows, man. I didn’t go that year, unfortunately, was that the year Paganfest got rolled into it? Perfect venue for it. Yeah, Irish Times was always a dirty good time but I really miss Lucky Dog. I saw a bitchin Iron Maiden tribute band there haha

          • Pivotal Xestius Shazbro

            Same… Opeth, Blind Guardian, Satyricon, Tyr… Quite a few others, but oh the memories

  • Thatguy

    Just about br00tal enough – cheesy fun

  • Luke_22

    Great review. Skinless were always a reliable band, so very keen to check this out. Nice artwork too.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thank you, sir. These boys have never let me down.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    For the record, my “issue” with New York is that it is too fucking far away for me to visit.

  • 517H

    Nice review. But can’t tell if you are serious about Suffo. I’ve never really been able to get into Suffo over the last 5 years or so. And I’ve tried. I even saw them live just recently in Sydney and they put on a great show, They are clearly talented guys at the top of their game. But something is missing for me. And I can’t place what it is. So it might as well be something irrelevant like being from New York.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks! Actually, I am quite serious about Suffocation. I have a few albums and they never get spins. I will not deny their talent but their music does nothing for me.

      • Tom Hardy

        So I guess you don’t fancy any early Immolation albums or the super technical n under-rated Malignancy or young blood Artificial Brain or let me stop with the descriptions and just list em eehh … Krallice, Type O Negative, Rigor Sardonicus, Behold… The Arctopus, Cannibal Corpse … pretentious Liturgy … some old bands people I hear are fond of like Manowar, Dio … there’s a bunch but my knowledge is fuzzy with all the champagne over Mad Max’s success the past few days mate. That’s quite a good mental block you got there. I guess it would make more sense if the cause was a certain style rather than where they came from like a Polish band playing Brazilian style DM or vice versa ya know. Anyway, I gotta jet for a press conference, cheerio.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          You gotta lay off the champagne dude ;)

          I do like some Immolation. There last album wasn’t too bad.

          • Tom Hardy

            “There last album wasn’t too bad.” you say. I guess that pretty much sums it. Lets agree to disagree on your thought of the last album faring in the ‘wasn’t too bad’ spectrum. I’d say their last good album was Unholy Cult which was also my least favorite among the first five they put out. Anything after Unholy Cult has been … hmmm … simply put – unmemorable or poorly written. There’s no room for an ‘OK’ album for me when it concerns Immolation ‘cos of my love for ’em.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Fair enough. We can disagree.

          • 517H

            I’m late on the Immo band wagon but Majesty and Decay blew me away. Love it. I need to check out all these bands’ older releases but from what I gather they are just as good if not better these days. Sinister (last 2 albums especially) are fantastic at the moment. And Blood Red Throne’s self titled from 2013 – “Home is Hell In Hell I Roam!” is fucken perfect for drifting in Miller’s wasteland

          • Tom Hardy

            Majesty & Decay got too old way too fast. Doesn’t hold a candle to any of the first 5 albums the band put out. Sinister’s last album was good but again, nowhere close to the first 2 albums they put out. Again, with Blood Red Throne their meat of riffs are in the first 2 albums and everything after sounds like a part 2.011 version of em.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Kingdom had some major production issues though. Fit with the streamlined sound, but still. Awesome review though, glad these guys are back. FStS was awesome.

      • 517H

        Cool – thanks for clarifying, Doc

    • Look at all the New York haters coming out of the woodwork!

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Not sure if I love or hate NYC, as I’ve never been there. For many, it’s one of those places you plan on visiting at least once in your life. Some make it there; others don’t. Someday I’ll make it, just so I can see if Katz’s is better than Montreal’s Schwartz’s.

        • Tom Hardy

          I’ve been at Katz a bunch of times during NY Film Fests or movie promos and they have the best pastrami sandwich NY has to offer. Period. Judging by pictures of the one at Schwartz, I might fly there to try some.

      • 517H

        So long as we’re clear – I love NY. And I’m bad at humour

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Brootal death sits in that realm for me where I feel like it’s too silly to be taken seriously and yet not silly enough to be considered fun.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yep

  • Celaeno

    This review gave me the heebie jeebies. So did that song. (In the good way I think…) Great review Doc!

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Man, I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell a band is on Relapse Records just by listening to the guitar sound. That thick, bassy and ultra-distorted guitar sound almost defines an album on Relapse – and I love it.
    Sure they have bad dynamics at times, but I’d take this over the overpolished crap that Nuclear Blast demands from their records (which is unfortunate for all the great bands on that label).

    • Howard Dean

      Indeed. Same way you can tell a band is on Unique Leader by the artwork alone (“bright, shiny, computerized sci-fi image of an alien demon and a supernova with the band’s trite logo plastered awkwardly over the top”)

  • Howard Dean

    Been looking forward to this album for a long while, though as the day of release approaches I find myself feeling as though I will be slightly disappointed. TtW,HtD is a classic release, and one of the preeminent BDM albums of the past decade. I don’t really feel like they can top it. Add in the change in lineup (to a more original lineup; the early Skinless albums aren’t nearly as good as TtW,HtD), and lukewarm album artwork, and I’m a little concerned. We’ll see.

    Oh well. The reissue of Pyrexia’s Sermon of Mockery is keeping my BDM/proto-slam appetite sated at the moment.