Skinless – Only the Ruthless Remain (Relapse)Thursday, 21st May 2015
Skinless initially made a name for themselves through their vicious live act. Coming from the upstate New York area, this writer can personally attest to the power of Skinless in the live venue after countless times seeing the band perform over the years. After 2006’s Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead, the band finally decided to call it a day. But as many bands have done, the band reformed in 2013 with their “classic” line-up (along with a second guitarist in David Matthews, also a long-time member of the upstate NY death metal scene) and so set the stage for Only the Ruthless Remain. But does it hold up to the band’s “classic” efforts?
A resounding yes answers the above question, though it may not be immediately apparent. Only the Ruthless Remains manages to grow with each listen, highlighting the massive riffs over time. Skinless’ approach of bringing more heavy than speed continues to be key, with each track hanging back in more mid-tempo NYDM chugging instead of firing off blastbeats left and right. There’s plenty of monstrous grooves to be found in cuts like “Skinless” and “Barbaric Proclivity.” Much of Skinless’ appeal has always relied on having each song filled with memorable yet deadly riffing, and Only the Ruthless Remain has this aspect covered quite well. The intensity of “Flamethrower” and “The Beast Smells Blood” are sure to make them future staples of the band’s repertoire. Vocalist Sherwood Webber has not long an ounce of ferocity in his vocals, sticking to the guttural lows that he always did so well, with some occasional high-pitched screams to change it up now and again. Moving Skinless forward into the two guitarist approach also paid off for the band, with the implementation of some standout solos and leads in the title track and “Funeral Curse.”
Only the Ruthless Remain is a largely successful return for Skinless. They have not lost their touch over the years, in fact, things may have been elevated given the layering that Only the Ruthless Remain displays in terms of replayability. While there may not be the goofy samples that the “classic” line-up was infamous for, this is an effort that will stand on its own merit and hopefully introduce the band to the next generation. Welcome back Skinless!