Skinless-Only-the-Ruthless-RemainNearly nine years after the immense album “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead “, the reformed Skinless return with this new offering “Only the Ruthless Remain”.

I am a big Skinless fan, and was more than a little excited when this album was announced, mainly because after they split I never thought another album would ever happen.

So after eight years you might expect there to be a few cobwebs that need to be dusted off on this album, and you can’t help but wonder if after the time out that they might not be able to match the power and ferocity of their former glory… but as soon as you press play it takes less than thirty seconds to put any and all doubts to bed.

After a short sample they come barrelling out of the gate at full throttle, with big powerful riffs, pounding drums and gruesome vocals, it sends a clear message, and that is that even if the old meat cleaver had blunted over the years, then they are more than happy to just beat you to death with the blunt edge.

In some ways you could say that its back to business as usual, but in other ways this does feel like a slightly different Skinless than the one that dropped the “Trample the weak… ” album back in 2006. For starters, the bands somewhat trademark use of comedic/disturbing samples is noticeably absent on this album, but that doesn’t bother me, and also they seem to have expanded their arsenal in terms of song writing on this album.

Whilst it still has the classic Skinless sound, they have also incorporated some new sounds into this album… well, new might not be the right word, as the overall vibe (both musically and production wise) has a lot of old school influence, with some echoes of classic “Autopsy” and “Death”, and also a hell of a lot more guitar solos than I ever remember them having in the past, this all adds up to a much more dynamic album than I was expecting and is a very pleasant surprise.

In the years since the last Skinless album, there has been a lot of change in the death metal scene, it is becoming increasingly overpopulated by cookie cutter bands, chugging away and describing their sound with a seemingly endless list of sub-genre definitions in an attempt to do something new.

So there was a small part of me that was worried that as soon as I hit play I was going to be greeted with an over produced, one dimensional slam fest full of pig vocals from a band trying to fit in with the cool kids, but I’m pleased to say that Skinless seem to have been completely ignorant of this movement, and have delivered a monstrous, straight up classic death metal album, and it is certainly a breath of fresh air.

Much more than a cash in on former glories, this easily stands proud next to anything the band achieved in their original run, and to me is a welcome return that shows they still have plenty more to give as a band.

Welcome back boys, just try not to make me wait quite so long for the next one.

(9/10 Mark Gleed)