The onslaught of old-school death metal revival bands in the past few years seem to be fairly concentrated in one of two camps: bands who sound like Incantation and bands who sound like the classic Swedish death metal bands (Entombed, Dismember, etc). Both of those styles are great, but it’s always nice to have a band going even further back to the basics. With their debut full-length, Skeletal Remains is bringing death metal back to its Floridian roots. “Beyond The Flesh” combines the great riffs and soloing of Death with the insane, demented vocal style pioneered by John Tardy (Obituary). On top of that, there are quite a few evil moments that are eerily similar to the atmosphere created by Deicide’s music. Even blastbeats are used sparingly. This band is about as old-school as it gets these days and that is the exact reason why they are brilliant.
Perhaps the strongest part of this record is its superb production. It sounds like “Spiritual Healing”, if that record had a slightly higher snare. Everything else is quite similar: the kick drums have quite a bit of punch, the leads are unbelievably crisp sounding, the bass is quite prominent during the heaviest riffs, and the rhythm guitars provide the perfect setting for those slow, tremolo-picked riffs that Death was famous for. “Beyond The Flesh” is quite similar to records like “Leprosy” in that it doesn’t thrash at full-speed relentlessly. Instead, the band makes use of well-placed changes in tempo to keep things interesting. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of speed, it's just that the speed isn't abused like it is by a lot of death metal these days. As mentioned earlier, the absolute highlight of this record is the guitar playing. Imagine if James Murphy, Andy LaRocque, and Chuck Schuldiner (my personal favourite Death shredders) decided to compile all of their best solos into one album; that pretty much sums up this record.
“Beyond The Flesh” has almost all of the elements, but there is one area where it falls short for me. Much like most of today’s death metal, I find the songwriting monotonous. The record is fun while it lasts, but I can’t quite sing along afterwards like I could with many of the older bands. It isn’t so much the lack of good parts to the songs; the music is fantastic. The problem is that the song structures don’t seem to be written in any sort of recognizable fashion (at least not to me). I would imagine that’s the point, and if you love that, you will absolutely love this album, but for me, it gives me nothing to grab on to past the album title. I can’t even recommend any songs in particular because they all seem very similar to me. I can’t fault Skeletal Remains that much for it; this is their first record, and I have no doubt the songwriting can only improve from here. With that said, the other parts to this album are so unbelievably strong that you need to hear it.
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All of it
4.0/5 or 80%.
Written by Scott