California-based death metallers Skeletal Remains have returned with a brand new full length, flaunting old-school-styled death metal with a modern production. But familiarity and homage to the classics is a slippery slope, and one that can lead to derivative and uninspired releases that don’t resonate with many, if any, listeners (as evidenced by the wasteland that some call Bandcamp’s ‘new’ section). Complete with percussive riffs, Van Drunen inspired vocals, and even a Dan Seagrave piece serving as the cover art, Devouring Mortality wouldn’t be out of place in the early 90s US death metal scene. But given the semi-recent revival of old-school death metal, it’s also not out of place in 2018, but it doesn’t exactly bring enough to the table to stand out in the crowd.
The biggest failing of Devouring Mortality is that even when limiting the scope to just the record itself, it still comes across as repetitive and consistent to a fault. If you were to somehow mix every single riff on the album into one Frankenstein-esque conglomerate, it would sound alarmingly similar to the main riffs on most of the tracks. Skeletal Remains has some talented musicians, but the songs presented here are forgettable and severely lacking in variety, almost like the product of a death metal by-the-numbers coloring book that doesn’t do much beyond plodding through its forty minute runtime.
Devouring Mortality starts off fierce but doesn’t take its potent ferocity anywhere, thus rendering any ability to impress null. If I wanted to watch a second-rate Pestilence worship band chase its own tail for an entire album, there are already too many bands able to offer that. What’s worse is that Skeletal Remains is not a mediocre or unintelligent outfit in of themselves, and they’ve proved that with Condemned to Misery and even Beyond the Flesh, the first two albums that they put out. Hell, even Devouring Mortality is a good representation of what the band can do, but it’s like watching the same trick done over and over again. The vocals are classic and well-executed, the drumming is exactly what the band needs it to be, and the riffs, while dull, are all played with competence. The final track, “Internal Detestation,” is something I could confidently recommend as an individual track, but being tacked on at the end of an all too similar bunch of songs takes its toll. Devouring Mortality could have been a special release, but potential aside, what matters is what the album actually turned out to be, and that is an unimaginative display of a decent band being held back by crippled and derivative songwriting.
Devouring Mortality is now available physically and digitally via Dark Descent Records.