Beyond the Flesh
Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Death reincarnated... almost...
Is everything old new again? Are we starting to see the cycle repeat at this point in time? Let’s consider this for a minute. Thrash bands are popping up here, there and everywhere and in fact, more so in the last couple of years than for quite some time. We’re also seeing students of the Swedeath School come out of the cracks. Now, consider California’s Skeletal Remains who worship at the altar of Death and Gorguts. It doesn’t take long once you start listening to their latest album Beyond the Flesh to see that this quartet are big fans of Leprosy era Death and Considered Dead era Gorguts.
Right from the very opening strains of Extirpated Vitality, the guitar tone and general production sound of the album reeks of late ‘80’s death metal and in particular those aforementioned albums – and I mean that in a good way as someone who grew up with those classic releases. The riffs and the song structures are reminiscent of straight forward, yet still technical late ‘80s’ and early ‘90’s death metal. If the likes of Death, Morgoth, and Gorguts are your thing, then Skeletal Remains could be your next favourite death metal band.
There are also slight hints of its follow up album Spiritual Healing as well but this is more for the guitar solos than anything as they are aligned with the more melodic style of James Murphy (who also played in Obituary, Cancer and Testament amongst other) than the more frantic style of former Death axeman Rick Rozz (who has recently reactivated his post Death band Massacre). The lead work on Desolation Isolation is a classic example of this.
I have to talk about the vocals courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Chris Monroy who uses just about every element of his being to conjure up an awesome death growl that is very clearly mostly a blend of Chuck Schuldiner (Death) and Luc Lemay (Gorguts). It contains fine traces of John Tardy from Obituary as well, but they are few and far between. Whilst it might not be the most original sounding death metal growl around, Monroy’s style is the perfect match to the aural cacophony that Skeletal Remains unleash. It should be of no surprise at this point when the cover of the brutal Gorguts classic Disincarnated (from their 1991 debut Considered Dead) pops up as a bonus track and Skeletal Remains have done a top notch job of it, too.
It’s fair to say that Skeletal Remains proudly wear their influences on their collective sleeves, and there will be those that say that Beyond the Flesh is nothing more than a B grade homage to some of the pioneers of death metal. There is some element of truth to that. It is very similar to the likes of Death and Gorguts but given those bands are no longer active, it’s good to see that bands like Skeletal Remains are popping up and doing their bit to keep death metal alive. They are off to a killer start with this crushing debut album. Old school death metal fan should be all over this one and with good reason.
More from Skeletal Remains
- Devouring Mortality [review]