SKELETAL REMAINS – The Entombment of Chaos (2020)REVIEW

The astute ascending rapture of peak death metal forms in the capable hands of Whittier, California’s Skeletal Remains continues to be a slow-burning, diabolically riff-obsessed force as they cross the threshold into full-on major label territory with their fourth full-length album ‘The Entombment of Chaos‘. With thousands upon thousands more eyes and ears set upon the project since their well-received transition into the big leagues circa 2018, ‘Devouring Mortality‘, the question of what makes this sort of strictly 90’s attuned death metal worship a phenomenon begins to arise more frequently. The illusion of progress can only lead to ignorance if you’ve learned nothing from cultivated nostalgia. Scatterbrained Elroy Jetson-lookin’ YouTube children disaffected by the traditions of late 80’s and early 90’s death and thrash metal classics are doomed to never fully appreciate this type of action because it is exclusively a connection to be made by folks aching to hear auld nostalgic stylistic renders taken to new places; That is the major appeal of ‘The Entombment of Chaos’ and every other Skeletal Remains album before it, the highest standards of golden aged artform expressed via minds that are a few generations deeper into enthusiastic death metal indoctrination.

Back in 2018 I’d gone into some depth pertaining to Chris Monroy (ex-Fueled by Fire) and this death metal side project gone mad throughout the 2010’s as I’d been right there when their first demo tracks (‘Desolate Isolation‘, 2011) hit the internet as Skeletal Remains made my Best of the Year lists for (‘Beyond the Flesh‘, 2012) and (‘Condemned to Misery‘, 2015). My review for their third album more or less details all of that as well as I ever could, though I will reiterate that their second album was some serious madness and I’m glad their first two albums will be getting remasters via Century Media soon since I’ve missed both vinyl represses. So, if you’ll recall 2018 saw the band’s early Death influenced “Eurodeath” sound (Asphyx, Pestilence, Morgoth, Gorguts) call upon mid-90’s progressive death touches and brutal thrash metal battery with hints of Monstrosity, ‘The Erosion of Sanity’ and (in my opinion) some Oppressor level neck-whipping stuff. Have they iterated or what? By all means Skeletal Remains still ultimately sound like themselves but ‘The Entombment of Chaos’ is a very focused look at death metal circa 1994-1996 that signals its open-armed appraisal of classic Morbid Angel as the true messiah of death metal in the late 90’s.

Put away that crap sounding remaster of ‘Domination’, get the mud-ass original mix and put on “Eyes to See, Ears to Hear” and see how its hell-strike lines up with the masterful incendiary aplomb of opener “Illusive Divinity”. Sure, the vocal cadence and guitar technique still aligns well with the notions of (the ahead of its time) ‘The Erosion of Sanity’, and some nods to ‘Pierced From Within’ are on their way soon enough, but you should be feeling healthy ‘Domination’ vibes from the start thanks to riff-upon-riffs killing atop an incredible drum sound and session performance from Charlie Koryn (Funebrarum, VoidCeremony). This is exactly the sort of referential sound that lights up the eyes of underground crate-diggers and nostalgia bound longhairs alike, major label or not. “Synthetic Impulse” is shockingly mosh heavy, even for Skeletal Remains and though it isn’t exactly “Suspended in Tribulation” in terms of arrangement I’d say the crew Monroy has picked up for this record have kicked things up to that level of quality — Not fully resembling the classics but meeting and surpassing the high standards of pre-MySpace death metal professionalism. This is where the division of lead guitar work becomes important and where I begin to swing back to the Rutan-era of Morbid Angel, which I feel this album has subconsciously striven for. “Tombs of Chaos” is, I believe, where the seven string guitar first chunks in and this propels use to the year 2000 immediately where the fiery solo trade-offs and thunderous viscosity of ‘Gateways to Annihilation‘ are first referenced. I dunno, you could be a cynical and reductive as you want about an ‘old school’ death metal record in 2020 but, there is no denying that the influences Skeletal Remains are throwing around on this fourth record are all ace and the compositions that’re espousing their own legacy to classic works are brutal and inspired throughout.

Side B is no less relentless and I figure if you’re hitting the CD or digital version without the break to flip the vinyl (or tape) the duo of “Dissectasy” and “Torturous Ways to Obliteration” will start to feel oppressive. That’d been my main complaint with ‘Devouring Mortality’, that Monroy writes enough riffs for an hour’s worth of music, clips it down to ~45 minutes and overlooks that most of the greats who’d done it in the 90’s stuck around 35-40 minutes, with few exceptions. This time around it isn’t a problem simply because ‘The Embodiment of Chaos’ justifies its brutality with such believable intensity, “Torturous Ways to Obliteration” feels like a nod to ‘Covenant’ as much as if it were propelled by the rhythm section of Monstrosity‘s ‘Millennium‘, hitting a high technical standard while fitting in soloing that seems to naturally trade between Schuldiner and Azagthoth for inspiration. Another sludgy seven-stringer, “Eternal Hatred” finally finds Skeletal Remains hitting an inkling of a death/doom feeling and as a result the send-off of the album feels equally remarkable as its harrowing entrance. Yes, it is essentially the vibe of “Where the Slime Live” without the wild solo at the end but I’m so into -that- thing that nobody does that I couldn’t possibly complain. “Unfurling the Casket” is the only piece that is out of place on the running order, it’d have been prime following “Tomb of Chaos” or introducing Side B but as is, it’d have made more sense to end the album with “Eternal Hatred”. No real gripes otherwise beyond the groove-squealin’ Disincarnate cover, it doesn’t fit the vibe of the album and something from Demented Ted (see: “Incisions”) or ‘Diabolical Summoning’ would’ve matched the energy of the record better.

So, it rips. Tons of riffs, great cover art (Dan Seagrave), distinct sound (Dan Swanö) and a masterclass drum kicker anchoring the Ancient Ones infused fire of it all. Do you need another one of those? Does Skeletal Remains yet justify the underground’s stoic support as they hit the majors in full? Yes and yes. What we’re getting out of this band today has not transformed into commercial garbage or trendy phoned-in riff borrowing slop but instead these guys have delivered their most brutal and spirited attack to date. It is hard to admit after championing ‘Condemned to Misery’ for so many years but at this point ‘The Entombment of Chaos’ is the biggest dick Skeletal Remains have swung at us to date. Very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (96/100)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Entombment of Chaos
LABEL(S):Century Media
RELEASE DATE:September 11th, 2020
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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