Has it really been 9 years since the last time we got new Skinless material? I mean considering they “broke up” in 2011, I should be more surprised at the fact that I’m getting anything new regardless of how long it’s been since the last release. It also marks the return of a some-what original lineup with original vocalist Sherwood Webber back on the mic and includes the addition of a second guitarist in Dave Matthews (no, not that guy). 9 years removed from the studio and 14 years since Webber/Carpenter/Keyser/Beaulac lineup has written music together. Would rust be a factor? Well it’s time to find out as the fivesome from Glen Falls, NY has returned from the dead with Only The Ruthless Remain.

Right from the opening track, Serpenticide, we find out that Skinless is clearly not fucking around on this outing. Right out of the gate it’s realized that the 2nd guitar was a great idea. Coupled with Keyser’s signature low twangy yet distorted bass, the string section sounds absolutely massive on this record. Also, with the edition of the second guitar, mastermind Noah Carpenter is able to play around with solos on this record without taking away from the aggressive core of the songs. There is also a huge sense of maturity in song writing this time around. The grindish death madness is on full display along with the signature groovy breakdowns but the transitions are insane on this record. They almost start and stop on a dime and jump in and out without little setup. On the first listen of the record, it is a bit much to take in but on every subsequent listen it becomes more and more impressive and they are able to maintain this chaos for longer song lengths than normal. Due to production and ideas in a lot of parts, the record reminds me a lot of what From Sacrifice To Survival and Trample The Weak were meant to be. However, the old days do make their presence known in the form of the bands namesake track. This sounds like something directly plucked from the Forshadowing record but with a much cleaner production. Only The Ruthless Remains is a band fully coming together for the true culmination of their career.

I think my only gripe with this record might be in the vocals. Not because they don’t sound awesome but I feel like they are a bit lost in the mix. Sherwood’s cookie monster delivery has always been a focal point of the bands overall idea. For as good as Jason Keyser was on Trample, most people still wanted Sherwood’s gutturals on the record. On Only The Ruthless, Sherwood sounds like evil personified but he doesn’t sound clear enough to truly appreciate. Even some of the background vocals, that make it sound like there are demons speaking through my speakers, get muffled out in all the wrong places. You can still hear him/them but it would have been nicer if they were a little louder in the mix.

Small complaint aside, Skinless is definitely back and without a doubt, better than ever. Only The Ruthless Remains is an exercise in a pure brutality, just the way you want it. This has leapfrogged itself to the top of my list in favorite death metal records of the year and it’s one that is going to be extremely hard to be dethroned.