Artist: Skeletal Remains
Album Title: Devouring Mortality
Label: Century Media Records
Date Of Release: 13 April 2018
There is literally no room for polite introductions here, because Skeletal Remains are on a mission; a mission to bludgeon us into bloody submission. As a result, from second number one of ‘Ripperology’, it is all-out death metal attack, as a huge, dirty riff kicks things off immediately. For the better part of a minute, the guitar riff is king and my head is bobbing furiously. It is a portent of things to come, because by-and-large, the guitar stands front and centre of ‘Devouring Mortality’, the latest full-length to emanate from the stable of the delightfully-monikered Skeletal Remains.
Now, I’ll admit that historically, I was never the biggest fan of straight-up death metal. But as the years have gone by, my love has steadily grown to the point that I love the genre. And I particularly love it when I’m faced with a band who instinctively knows what they are doing and know how to deliver their output to achieve maximum impact. Skeletal Remains fall into this bracket without a doubt, an impressive achievement for three key reasons.
Firstly, this is only the third full-length album from the band since their formation in 2011 under the relatively unpronounceable Anthropophagy. Secondly, the line-up hasn’t been the most stable of things over the past seven years or so. And thirdly, as ‘Devouring Mortality’ makes clear, Skeletal Remains are not breaking any new ground at all with their chosen formula. And yet, despite all this, it is extremely hard to ignore the results that pour from the speakers with genuinely ferocious intent.
Skeletal Remains wear their influences on their collective sleeves, never shying away from the obvious reference points that litter their music. From Death, to Morbid Angel and every other quality death metal act in between, all the bases are covered. The thing is though, that they pull it off with a swagger and a technically adept skill that means that you can’t possibly dislike this record. And then there are the aggressive thrash nuances that poke through, as well as the bucket-loads of groove and the touches of melody that mean that each track has its own identity. For nearly three-quarters of an hour, ‘Devouring Mortality’ feels like it is right on the money. Throw into the mix a sublime cover from Dan Seagrave (Memoriam, Entombed) and a rich and full production featuring Dan Swanö’s mixing and mastering skills, and that feeling of quality is only further enhanced.
One of the most impressive elements within ‘Devouring Mortality’ is the guitar work. The riffs are full of character, far from one-dimensional. They also have a delightfully dirty feel to them, allowing echoes of old-school death metal to penetrate the modern, powerful production. But Chris Monroy and Adrian Obregon also display the sophistication and technical prowess to pepper the substantial riffs with plenty of precise and flamboyant lead breaks and clever embellishments. It is a combination that can be hard to get right, but these two six-stringers certainly achieve a good balance here.
Refreshingly, the rhythm section for Skeletal Remains of drummer Johnny Valles and bassist Adrius Marquez are not all about blastbeats and unrelenting bottom-end brutality. Whilst they can pummel with the best of the genre’s heavyweights, their playing contains a touch more variety, allowing the songs to breathe and ensuring that the less complicated sections of all-out groove are not overshadowed or overly cluttered.
The dry, raspy voice of Monroy is the ideal fit, reminding me of a slightly higher-pitched and more restrained version of Obituary’s John Tardy.
With an album that rips along with such consistency, it is difficult to pick out particular tracks for individual scrutiny. However, the aforementioned opener, ‘Ripperology’ is a killer track, full of venom and malevolence, particularly when a tolling bell is introduced and then towards the end, when the song reverts to an uncomplicated blast to the finish.
The intensity and pace of ‘Seismic Abyss’ is superb, allowing Valles to go crazy with the drum rolls and fills in between fast, aggressive riffing. The change in pace that sees a bulldozing groove enter the fray is well-executed, as are the crazy lead breaks that soar and swoop all over the place, not to mention the chunky bass that cuts through the tumult nicely at times.
‘Parasitic Horrors’ is a no-nonsense death metal work-out with yet more incredible groove injected into it, whilst the title track has an even heavier vibe to it – this might be where the seven-string instruments were employed. Either way, it is a commanding and domineering track, where everything feels like it has been dialled up to the maximum. ‘Grotesque Creation’ on the other hand is easily the most melodic of all of the eleven songs, with plenty of memorable guitar work within its meagre three-and-a-half-minute lifespan.
So, all-in-all, ‘Devouring Mortality’ is a very positive experience for the discerning death metal fan. There’s not a lot to dislike and so long as you’re comfortable with listening to a record that is more focussed on the past than the future. Sometimes, the vibe of days gone by can be the biggest charm about a record. But regardless, ‘Devouring Mortality’ proves how deft and accomplished Skeletal Remains are at creating quality extreme music.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse