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Skinless – Savagery Award winner

by Alexis Lareine at 22 June 2018, 12:22 PM

Death metal veterans SKINLESS have had quite the extensive career, spanning about half a century. Their first release came in 1994, a demo, but their first full-length wasn’t released until 1998 with the independently-released, highly praised “Progression Towards Evil”. They remained consistently active until 2006 – their next release wasn’t until 2015 with “Only the Ruthless Remain”. They’re known for their intense live performances, as well as satirizing elements of death metal.

The title track is full of classic brutal energy, with simple but catchy riffs, and these lower-range vocals that are pure intensity. The drums feel very low in the mix at times, and I wish they were more discernable because there are some interesting things going on there, particularly with the fills. The style is very old-school, and it has this subtle, primal energy to it. SKINLESS is definitely one of those bands that would be perfectly in their element in a live setting: this is music to beat the shit out of your friends in the pit to.

“Siege Engine” continues the standard yet catchy, brutal as hell feel. This is perfect for fans of old-school death metal. There’s some nice variation in the vocals, switching between near-guttural lows and classic raspy high screams. These songs seem to go from one catchy, hard-hitting riff to the next. There are even some surprise lead guitar lines, and the guitar tones are spot-on: nice and crunchy but still discernable, and the lead guitar tone sits beautifully on top of everything else. The double-kicks are super solid as well – very tight.

After half a minute of ominous, atmospheric noise, “Skull Session” just smashes your face in with the simply brutal riffage combined with these evil, guttural vocals on top. SKINLESS have really perfected the art of old-school death metal – nothing super innovative is happening, but they’ve taken all of these elements – simple, chunky, catchy as hell riffs, these disgusting (in a completely positive way) vocals; and the straightforward, super tight drum patterns that keep the song progressing – and they’ve meshed these elements into what I can confidently say after only three songs is my favorite release of the year so far.

“Reversal of Fortune” opens with an unexpected acoustic intro, and it’s a pleasantly surprising change-up from the rest of the album. Distorted guitars eventually drop, and the two-minute instrumental is overall very groovy. I tend to find a lot of instrumentals unnecessary to the overall feel of the album, but this one, particularly in the way it builds and progresses all the way to the last second, really contributes to the tone of the album. I like that it almost feels like it could be an intro to a METALLICA song – it’s that melodic.

“Exacting Revenge” immediately gets right back into that face-smashing, classic, nasty (again, in a completely positive way) sound that you can hear reflected in modern brutal death metal bands. Stylistically, it’s classic old-school death metal, but SKINLESS have managed the feat of maintaining a modern, up-to-date sound, particularly in terms of production.

“Medieval” has a much groovier feel to it than the other tracks on the album. That doesn’t make it any less brutal though – it almost has a doom metal vibe at times. About halfway through, the song really picks up in intensity. Bob Beaulac’s drum patterns really contribute to the direction each song takes – throughout all of these songs, the changes in drumming and the patterns is what builds the intensity, what keeps the song progressing – it really just sets each individual section over the top as far as what they’re trying to get across. Each groovy section is that much groovier, each particularly brutal section is that much more brutal due to the subtle changes in the drumming; it’s really something to be marveled.

“Line of Dissent” returns to the boundless energy and catchy brutal style that this band can obviously excel at. The drumming, again, adds this great extra layer of interest to this song, switching between blast beats, skank beats, and blazing, solid as hell double kicks. “Cruel Blade of the Guillotine” features a minute-and-a-half of ominous clean guitars, until a distinctly thrashy riff drops. The flow of these songs is something that is missing from a lot of modern metal songs – it transitions seamlessly from thrashy to brutal death metal and back to thrashy. “The Hordes” another groovy one, this time a short and sweet instrumental.

The final song, “High Rate Extinction” is a CROWBAR cover. Stylistically, it fits in perfectly with the rest of the album – it’s an amalgamation of the best elements of this release: a groovy, catchy, no bullshit, no gimmick, devastatingly brutal release. I feel like I need to stop and take a breather after listening to the whole thing; there is an endless amount of energy packed into this. It’s really a testament to this band’s staying power, to release such a hard-hitting, brutal as hell, old-school yet completely modern album, much less 25 years into their career. It’s just evil, but it’s very accessible. I could really go on about this for several more paragraphs, but here’s the deal. This band’s incredible, this album is incredible, best release of the year as of now. Everyone else can go home.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Savagery
2. Siege Engine
3. Skull Session
4. Reversal of Fortune
5. Exacting Revenge
6. Medieval
7. Line of Dissent
8. Cruel Blade of the Guillotine
9. The Hordes
10. High Rate Extinction (Crowbar cover)
Noah Carpenter – Guitars
Sherwood Webber – Vocals
Joe Keyser – Bass
Bob Beaulac – Drums
Dave Matthews – Guitars
Record Label: Relapse Records


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Edited 22 February 2019

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