New York death metallers Skinless are back. The last time we heard from this band was in 2015 with Only The Ruthless Remain, which marked the end of an eight year gap between new material. Thankfully, the group has not made us wait that long for another set of gritty nasty tunes, as they have now bestowed us with their newest full-length album, Savagery.
Skinless are a prime example of a band where what you see is what you get. The album art is a particularly dingy piece of work that showcases sinewy flesh hanging off of a skull with no eyes. This paves the way for the opening title track to slam the viewer with incredibly meaty guitar chugs, huge slamming drum grooves, and Sherwood Webber’s deep intense vocals reverberating above the savage (pun completely intended) audio storm beneath. There’s some back and forth between these grooves and some more blastbeat-heavy segments, and some pretty solid guitar solo work in there. The album continues on this path through each of its tracks.
“Siege Engine” ramps up the speed while maintaining a triplet groove in the double bass work and booming guitar chugs, mixing in plenty of tremolo riffs and leaving room for a massive stomping bridge in the middle. “Exacting Revenge” shows off a lot of tight musical chemistry. Another song that’s not lacking in grooves, the guitars chug in perfect rhythm with the hard-hitting double bass drum patterns, and there’s some dynamic sections in the middle where the guitars bounce between high-and-low ends along with plenty of harmonizing tremolo work. When the album backs off into slower territory, we get tracks like “Medieval” with its deliberately slow and evil intro where the ride cymbal hits and creepy guitar leads create a sense of anticipation. This leads into some of the slowest most trudging instrumental work on the album that never lets up, enveloping the listener in an ominous atmosphere even when the song picks up the tempo a little bit.
The record’s strongest suit lies in its excellent production. The album’s songwriting veers quite between aggressive gnarled beats and more doom-like ominous sections, There are even songs like “Reversal of Fortune” and “Cruel Blade of the Guillotine” that feature prominent clean guitar passages that feel more in the vain of classic Metallica than anything else. Throughout all of these, the instrumental tones always sound absolutely massive. The slamming riffs and drum beats are massive enough to create walls of atmosphere but also have just enough clarity to them to emphasize the impact, and the doomier parts saturated the music with a particularly hazy vibe.
While there is much to like about the record, it can be hard to get into for the uninitiated. This is chiefly because at the end of the day, Savagery is, for lack of a better term, just another Skinless record. It’s not an album that wildly varies up convention in the grand scheme of things, and apart from some of the clean breaks in a couple of aforementioned songs, it can feel like you’re listening to the same 2 or 3 songs repeatedly across 37 minutes. Despite this gripe, those who are inclined to give the record a listen will find quite a bit to enjoy. It may only have one or two flavors to its songwriting, but those are pretty damn good flavors for those who have the taste for it, and if nothing else, Savagery delivers just that and proves that Skinless are men of their word.
Final verdict: stream it. Skinless deliver another solid set of no-nonsense death metal jams on Savagery.
[Note: a copy of the album was provided by Relapse Records for the purpose of this review.]