Skinless – Savagery (2018) REVIEW

If you jumped straight from Skinless‘ demo in 1994 to ‘Savagery’ today in 2018 it wouldn’t be an outrageous shock, with no huge shift in style or guitar work. I don’t point that out to suggest that Skinless never changed, or never did anything new but rather to set your sights on the old school feeling inherent to ‘Savagery’. That ’94 demo didn’t hint at all at the sea-change that happened in 1995 as this Glens Falls, New York formed brutal death metal band thugged-out their ‘Swollen Heaps’ demo aiming for the mosh-worthy style likewise adopted by Internal Bleeding, Dying Fetus and to some smaller degree Broken Hope. Maybe it was the samples, great fans, or a keen right hand for moshable riffs but Skinless more or less outlasted many comparable groups of their era, like Shredded Corpse, through sheer will to exist.

‘Progression Towards Evil’ represents exactly the sort of death metal that I haven’t generally been able to stand since maybe the third Cannibal Corpse record, the mid-paced chuggin’ & thuggin’ brutal stuff. I’ll go apeshit for any Suffocation record, even the one where he lost his shoes, and there are hundreds of great brutal death metal records from the mid-to-late 90’s that I’d gladly jam once in a while but the mosh stuff is literally just 90’s metalcore dressed up in death metal drag. Now I’m not denying that I spent the early 00’s listening to a ton of brutal death metal and between Poland, Brazil and Unique Leader that trendy heightened extremity was important to me. Records like ‘Foreshadowing Our Demise’ were brutal but seemed way more ‘entry level’ compared to stuff like Severed Savior, Defeated Sanity and Deeds of Flesh at the time.

When Skinless put out their third full-length ‘From Sacrifice to Survival’ in 2003 I was into it. The frantic drumming from John Longstreth and expensive-ass sounding production from Neil Kearnon made for a pretty good record of it’s time. At the very least my own perception of the band as a goof troop on the same level as Six Feet Under had been stomped out. The triggered sounding drums on ‘Trample the Weak, Hurtle the Dead’ kept me from buying it but the guitar work from Noah Carpenter always seemed to be on a steady rise with each release. Whether Skinless was just keeping up with their peers or developing their own sound, people were still holding the group in some high regard. From there the band was still actively touring but collapsed into a wet fart of a split-up in 2011.

Out of the loop with brutal death metal, and more focused on underground groups in general, I had no idea Skinless had reformed until this latest album was announced. Sounds shitty but my reaction when hearing their 2015 album ‘Only the Ruthless Remain’ for the first time was that it was no wonder I missed it. The whole thing was blandly mixed and even more straight-forward in style than was usual for the band. ‘Savagery’ corrects a lot of that blandness in terms of songwriting and guitar work, but retains a murky mix that flattens the experience. Not a big deal, I just find that the lower register of the chugging and the double-bass drumming aren’t separate enough in the mix and it creates an artificial clunkiness not present on their mid-00’s albums.

‘Savagery’ starts revving it’s engine after “Skull Session” with the ‘Seasons in the Abyss’-ish “Reversal of Fortune” introducing my favorite track “Exacting Revenge” with it’s urgent drumming. Likewise the Suffocation-esque  “Line of Dissent” captures that same energy with what I’d say is the best set of riffs on the record. I have to admit as a huge fan of Crowbar the cover of “High Rate Extinction” was the first song I skipped right over to and the stuff Skinless does in that cover nearly outshines some of the better writing on the rest of ‘Savagery’. I ended up feeling like this album is a few notches above the ‘return to form’ of Six Feet Under‘s ‘Undead’ (only that band was never good) and Skinless still generally have their shit together. It isn’t going to hang with whatever other death metal I’m chasing in 2018 but this is a good Skinless album and I have nothing shitty to say about it. I’d definitely recommend previewing “Exacting Revenge” and “Line of Dissent” as they are worthwhile standouts.

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Artist Skinless
Type Album
Released May 11, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Relapse Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Skinless on Facebook
Genres

Every drop of blood spills. 3.0/5.0

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