Released: 2006, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
New York’s Skinless was a band who failed to really impress me with their last album, 2003’s FROM SACRIFICE TO SURVIVAL. Yes, it was a devastating slab of brutal death metal but something just didn’t click. Their blend of old-school Suffocation-styled death metal and newer death-grind bands like Aborted was good but nothing spectacular. Then along came new vocalist Jason Keyser and all that has changed. Former vocalist Sherwood Webber was the sort of guy who got the job done but didn’t offer any vocal dynamic beyond the usual grunts and roars. Neil Kernon’s ultra-slick production job didn’t help matters either but on Skinless’ new album, TRAMPLE THE WEAK, HURDLE THE DEAD, the band sounds invigorated (along with Keyser, original drummer Bob Beaulac is back) and able to stand alongside their punishing live performances. Without a doubt, Skinless is one of the most devastating live bands I have ever witnessed and the new lineup has created an album more in line with 2001’s FORESHADOWING OUR DEMISE than FROM SACRIFICE TO SURVIVAL. Noah Carpenter’s powerhouse riffs still drive the songs but the use of film samples to drive home the brutality and set the tone for the music are welcomed back and Keyser’s multi-faceted voice is simply the icing on the cake, making TRAMPLE THE WEAK, HURDLE THE DEAD Skinless’ finest hour.
After a seething sample taken from the 1972 film CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, “Overlord” blasts forward under the growls, gurgles, roars, squeals and shrieks of Jason Keyser. Noah Carpenter’s chugging riffs and the blast inferno of Bob Beaulac bulldoze the listener with a wall of unrelenting death metal fury. The clever use of the HOT SHOTS: PART DEUX quote, “War…it’s fantastic!” opens “A Unilateral Disgust” and the mid-tempo, technically-impressive riffing from Carpenter has been retained through each of the four Skinless albums. He flails away, speeding down the fretboard with focused precision and skronky harmonics while Beaulac and bassist Joe Keyser try their best to keep up. “Deviation Will Not Be Tolerated” is a bruising, sludgy track (it almost hits a Crowbar-like tempo at points) and when put up against the faster Skinless songs, it still holds its own. The title track (with intro from PATTON: “We're not just gonna shoot the bastards, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those bastards by the bushel!”) really showcases Beaulac’s skills as a drummer and what was lacking on FROM SACRIFICE TO SURVIVAL. Like Webber, John Longstreth (Origin, Exhumed) got the job done but Beaulac is clearly an important piece of Skinless’ sound, choosing to kick his bass drum into submission rather than show off. The rumbling intro of “Spoils of The Sycophant” nearly obliterated my car’s woofer and Carpenter’s thrash-based riffs and death metal breakdown explode behind Keyser’s impressive vocal performance, which shifts gears seamlessly between an ultra-low, gurgled guttural roar to a menacing, paint-peeling shriek. Skinless covers Black Sabbath’s “Wicked World” and certainly make it their own. Carpenter is an avowed Sabbath fanatic and his doom-laden riffs parallel those crafted by Tony Iommi thirty-six years ago but Keyser really takes the ball and runs with it, double-tracking his vocals for an ominous effect. Joe Keyser gets to have some fun noodling on bass (the intro to “N.I.B.” is tacked on at the end) and Beaulac’s rolls and fills help to create a cover worthy of the classic original.
Along with Misery Index’s DISCORDIA and All Shall Perish’s THE PRICE OF EXISTENCE, Skinless has conjured a death metal triumph with TRAMPLE THE WEAK, HURDLE THE DEAD. It will be a tough act to follow but Skinless has clearly come into their own as a band and forsaken their earlier gross-out material (“Tampon Lollipops,” anyone?) for well-crafted, brutal death metal with a running war theme. Clocking in at a mere 36 minutes, a few more tracks could have been added without the band overstaying their welcome but less is always more and as it is, TRAMPLE THE WEAK, HURDLE THE DEAD is an absolute monster of an album.
KILLER KUTS: “Overlord,” “A Unilateral Disgust,” “Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead,” “Spoils of The Sycophant”