Skeletal Remains - Fragments Of The Ageless

Artist: Skeletal Remains

Album Title: Fragments Of The Ageless

Label: Century Media

Date of Release: 8 March 2024

Having favourably reviewed the past two albums from California’s Skeletal Remains, I felt it would have been considered bad form to not check out their latest full-length endeavour, ‘Fragments Of The Ageless’. And so here we are after a four-year gap since the release of 2020’s ‘The Entombment Of Chaos’ with a brand new collection of ten old-school death metal tracks to sink our teeth into.

In the intervening years since their last album dropped, Skeletal Remains have seen a significant change to the line-up with both a new drummer and bassist installed to create a completely new rhythm section for the band. Behind the kit comes Pierce Williams and, on the bass, enters Brian Rush. Together they join the more familiar figures of guitarist Mike De La O and guitarist/vocalist Chris Monroy. Based on the output here, the fact that the two new members live just shy of a thousand miles away in Portland has not been any kind of problem, with the resultant music sounding very much like Skeletal Remains of old.

Anyone familiar with the band will therefore immediately know what to expect from ‘Fragments Of The Ageless’. This is, to put it bluntly, an intense and unrelenting forty-five minutes of uncompromising old-school death metal. By ‘old-school’, I mean that everything you expect from a death metal record is present and correct here and, in so doing, it harkens back a little to what made the genre so powerful in the 90s in particular. What I like here, though, is the way that Skeletal Remains demonstrate their instrumental prowess with some sharp, incisive, and hugely impressive technicality whilst keeping a certain amount of dirt and grit present, not to mention some groove as well.

There’s no intro piece to usher us into ‘Fragments Of The Ageless’; instead, the aptly-named ‘Relentless Appetite’ immediately explodes from the speakers with the subtlety of a nuclear bomb. Ferocious drumming and pummelling guitars assault the senses from second one and from there, the Americans never let up. The initial tumult dies down a little to allow a slightly slower, chugging riff to emerge alongside a forceful blastbeat and, eventually, the deep growls of Chris Monroy. I really enjoy the way that the song is both frenetic and muscular, bringing both a sense of speedy aggression and groovy intent to the party. Naturally, as is the Skeletal Remains way, the track is littered with swift lead guitar solos that almost come out of nowhere to dazzle with impressive dexterity.

Skeletal Remains - Fragments Of The Ageless

Occasionally, as with the intro to ‘…Evocation (The Rebirth)’, the all-out attack is briefly tinkered with to allow something more atmospheric and darker to emerge. It is on this instrumental track where the quartet are at their most ‘progressive’, almost veering towards a more overt technical death metal approach. The bass of Brian Rush is allowed to come to the fore occasionally and briefly, whilst the lack of vocals allows for longer, more meandering periods of instrumentalism, punctuated by flashes of calm, as well as some fast-picked riffs that invoke a certain black metal iciness.

However, if I was to offer anything approaching a criticism of ‘Fragments Of The Ageless’, it’d be that there is a lack of variety overall for my personal tastes. I know that death metal is meant to be extreme blasts of intensity and bludgeoning sound, and this is exactly what many of you will want, relish, and lap up willingly. For me, though, I just wish that some of the groovier sections were even more pronounced along the way. Despite some genuinely incredible performances within them (the drumming and lead guitar work on ‘Cybernetic Harvest’ as one example) the run of songs from ‘Cybernetic Harvest’ to ‘Forever In Sufferance’ feel like they merge into each other a little. One track where my wish does come true is ‘Verminous Embodiment’ and it’s one of the absolute standouts for me on the album as a direct result, giving those neck muscles a stretch in the process.

Another standout has to be the seven-minute ‘Unmerciful’. It’s still relatively unusual for old-school death metal to deliver a single composition of this length, but Skeletal Remains have not shied away from the challenge. Whether the track fully justifies its length is open to debate, but I really like some of the slower passages that hit with the force of an avalanche, crushing everything in its path, including ears and necks with equal ambivalence.

There is absolutely no denying the hunger and desire of Skeletal Remains on this record. The fact that the four musicians come out of the blocks with such bruising intent demonstrates that the band are eager to make such an impression. And the resultant music on ‘Fragments Of The Ageless’ is undeniably of a high quality, full of those ingredients that you want from the genre. My feelings towards it, however, are a little less effusive as I haven’t warmed to it in the way that I really wanted, and perhaps expected to. This is top drawer death metal that’ll be loved by many. My recommendation is a little more reserved, though – it’s good, but not essential for me.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%



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