Skeletal Remains : Fragments of the Ageless

Skeletal Remains Fragments of the Ageless review

Unadulterated, riffs-and-brutality death metal is thriving in 2024, uninterested in evolving or updating itself. For as much as progressive death metal works like Tomb Mold’s The Enduring Spirit garner acclaim, they do not antiquate purer expressions from the likes of Skeletal Remains, the California group that proclaimed last month, “We believe deeply in the ‘power of the riff.’” For the past decade, they’ve dedicated themselves to the genre, professing their adoration for it and its grooves, solos, and identity. Rather than sound archaic, it’s their mentality—that death metal can be a be-all-end-all if you pursue it deeply enough—that’s old school. They don’t need to pull from other styles or draw influence from bands not named after torture techniques; they show that burrowing deeper into death metal’s caverns is enough. 

Skeletons Remains’ fifth album, Fragments of the Ageless, indeed burrows deeper and flaunts how well the group understands death metal and its basal appeal. Death metal is about heaviness, distortion, and attitude as much as it is a tightrope balancing act between those characteristics. How well one balances is what separates the Immolations from the Six Feet Unders. For their worth, Skeletal Remains nail the aforementioned fundamentals, but their flair lies in their textures and grooves. The former are pulsing and septic without undue messiness, and the opaque production opens the channels for tracks like “To Conquer the Devout” to swagger in. These grooves often act as segues between traditional grinding tempos. Fragments of the Ageless isn’t conventional easy listening, but it’s effortless to listen to because everything comes through smoothly and professionally, as if the band gave a shit about who would hear their music and optimized it for that experience without touching it anymore. It’s not mechanically optimized death metal; it’s death metal for diehards who have studied the genre and can pick out what works best. 

The only downside of such a hyperfocused approach is that Fragments of the Ageless is the average of the sum of its parts. Tracks play similarly, by and large, with only certain details to distinguish them. For instance, “Cybernetic Harvest” houses one of the best solos on the album that sounds more technical than what you’d expect from a band so vested in the riff’s might. By and large, most tracks can claim one distinctive feature, but they do little to give them their own identity. This is not to spite any particular track, as there are no outright band songs, but to lament the overall lack of variation. Fragments of the Ageless lives and dies on how much death metal you can stomach in one sitting. 

More than anything, Skeletal Remains’ fifth album is death metal for death metal’s sake. It’s distanced from all that exists outside of death metal. But, and this but must be capitalized, this is a positive aspect because the emotional core of Skeletal Remains and the desire to dive deeper into death metal is one and the same. These are not feelings of anger, misanthropy, or nihilism but of joy and curiosity, both of which the group communicates through death metal’s lingua franca—grunts, grooves, chugging, and all other associated expressions. Listening to Fragments of the Ageless is feeling the transient ecstasy of playing such heavy music. It needn’t speak for anything more, only for a basal human desire for power in one’s grasp, no matter how fleeting, but a brief fragment when you can bear more than your own weight because of your inborn might. Death metal has always been burly, but the best death metal shares its burliness. Rather than watching a performance, death metal excites you into gathering your own strength. It needn’t discuss more. 

Label: Century Media

Year: 2024

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Skeletal Remains Fragments of the Ageless review

Skeletal Remains : Fragments of the Ageless

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