(Century Media/Dark Descent)
Their first release on new (and bigger) labels, Dan Seagrave artwork, Dan Swanö at the mixing desk…Skeletal Remains certainly seem to be making a step up with Devouring Mortality. And thankfully, their third album largely justifies the weight that’s been put behind it.
The Californians pull off classic death metal – a la Death, Massacre and Gorguts – with real panache, and the likes of Seismic Abyss plunge us straight back to ’91, to sweaty Tampa Bay nightclubs and Xeroxed flyers. There’s no doubting where the band trio take their cues from that’s for sure – check out the Schuldiner meets Tardy bros. groove of Torture Labyrinth – but Skeletal Remains offer more than just a pastiche of past glories. They write death metal that’s for the here and now, that sounds fresh and vibrant (Swanö should get plenty of credit for that) and they have the technical prowess to send their gory hymns into multiple convulsions: spin Grotesque Creation and Parasitic Horrors if you want the evidence.
Yes, some of Chris Monroy and Mike De La O’s riffery can be a touch derivative, but the latter’s writhing leadwork makes up for it on tracks like Reanimating Pathogen, as it veers close to the border with chaos, then runs straight into a shower of dazzling melodies.
There’ll be more original (and more essential) death metal releases this year, but Skeletal Remains have really pushed themselves here… and deserve the rewards that Devouring Mortality should bring.