American death metallers, Skinless, have released their latest album, called Savagery. Savagery came out on the 11th of May via Relapse Records. Savagery is a dark and crushingly heavy assault on the senses. You could even say, it’s savage.
Savagery will be the 6th full length studio album released by the New York based death metallers and the second since the band reformed in 2013. Skinless had originally formed in 1992 but a huge amount of member changes held up their first release. Between 92 and 98 they changed the singer 5 times, the drummer twice and the bassist three times. Eventually they settled and became noticed in 1998 when they finally released their highly praised debut, Progression Towards Evil. At first the band were as famous for gimmicks at their insane live shows as they were for crushing death metal. Things like giving fans long foam tubes (nicknamed logs of brutality) to beat each other with during sets were probably a lot of fun but seem cheesy when you look back on it.
Still, musically the band were held in high esteem with crunchingly heavy riffs and face melting vocals being their forte. Things were going well as the band released 3 slabs of music in 3 years starting with 2001’s Foreshadowing Our Demise, 2002’s EP Miscreant and 2003’s From Sacrifice to Survival. Another range of member changes came before their next album in 2006 with Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead. 3 more drummers and a new vocalist come and go again proving this band are far from settled.
Confirming that thought, the band called it a day in 2011 having not released any music since 2006. They weren’t absent for long though, reforming in 2013 with the line up that recorded the debut, Progression Towards Evil and released Only the Ruthless Remain in 2015. Now three years later, without any member changes we have their latest release, Savagery.
Skinless are Sherwood Webber IV (aka Thunder Wheel) on vocals. Guitar duties fall to Noah Carpenter and Dave Matthews while the bass sits with Joe Keyser. Finally, on drums we have Bob Beaulac. Savagery is 9 tracks and around 36 minutes of brooding, dark death metal. There is a version available with a tenth bonus track called High Rate Extinction as well.
Listening to Savagery really drives the message home that Skinless offer an all out, brutal attack on the sense. Bone shuddering drum blasts, muddy bass lines, crushing riffs and vicious vocals. The album opens with the title track, Savagery. A 4 and a half minute long mental pounding. Effects and demonic growls act as an intro, sounding like a trip to hell, before the deep drums and distorted guitars kick in. The track chugs along at a solid pace while the vocals come in dark and deep. Occasional higher backing vocals add a little extra depth.
The track really just moves from punishing riff to punishing riff, perfect for head banging along to. A really cool, low toned guitar solo breaks up the track a bit before it kicks back in at for a minute of destruction with some of the darkest vocals I have heard this year. The brutality continues into Siege Engine and Skull Session. More of the same comes with seriously heavy riffs and intense drumming alongside enraged vocals. There is a little danger of the tracks starting to sound pretty similar already though little moments help to seperate them. The high toned solo permeating the dark cloud of death on Siege Engine is a welcome respite.
The fourth track, Reversal of Fortune switches things up a bit thankfully. It is a 2 minute long instrumental with an ominous but melodic guitar melody playing out. It builds into heavier, distorted guitars but still breaks the album up nicely. Exacting Revenge brings back the savagery next but hits you with a little switch up in guitar lines playing an almost thrash like line alongside the death metal heaviness.
If you are waiting for a ballad, it isn’t coming as Medieval is followed immediately by Line of Dissent. Two more extremely vicious tracks with crunchy riffs, thick bass and booming drums. Medieval sees a little switch in pace to a slow, prowling pace. Occasional melodic guitar lines pierce the skin before it picks up to quicker half way through. Lines of Dissent doesn’t stray far from the opening few tracks. Quick drums, ghoulish vocals and chunky riffs are the order of the day here.
The final two tracks on the Savagery are Cruel Blade of the Guillotine followed by The Hordes. The former has a melodic intro before exploding into life with malevolant force and ferocity. It is viciously heavy with vocals that occasionally mix between low and higher tones and has a cracking little solo at the end. Savagery ends on The Hordes which is a bit of a strange one to end on as it is just another 2 minute instrumental. Nothing wrong with that but it isn’t spectacular and would have served better as a break from the heaviness around track 8. Ending on Cruel Blade of the Guillotine with have left listneres shell shocked and had a greater impact.
Savagery is a fantastic example of the most brutal side of death metal. It is chock full of chunky riffs. The drums are meaty and impactful. The bass is thick and heavy and the vocals are visceral and demonic. There are some solid guitar solos and melodic lines dappled in areas but predominantly Savagery is a relentlessly heavy assault. That does bring it’s own problems where you find yourself praying for occasional respite. For some variety. Some of the heavier tracks are hard to tell apart, following the same pattern of attack though are enjoyable still.
Little moments of variety in the form of solos, melodic intros and the 2 instrumentals are welcomed. Putting the second at the end of the album isn’t really the right place for it in my opinion. Production wise the album sounds raw and unpolished but not to the point of being fuzzy or hard to listen to. Savagery is a really heavy album but could do with a few extra ideas to elevate it from good to great.
Savagery is available to buy now from Relapse/Skinless on Bandcamp here. It is also available on all the usual streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify. You can also grab a copy at the links below. Find out more on Skinless on their Bandcamp page, on Facebook or on Twitter. Be sure to give them a like or follow while you are there.
Savagery by Skinless (Relapse Records)