Skeletal Remains- Fragments of the Ageless (Album Review)

March 7, 2024


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Skeletal Remains has been around for the better part of thirteen years now, but the California death metal band’s profile really shot up with their third album Devouring Mortality in 2018.  With each album they’ve tweaked their approach to the genre, letting darker melodies break through an appropriately brutal foundation.  Although there have been lineup changes on almost every album, founding vocalist/guitarist Chris Monroy has kept the band moving forward.  For album number five, Fragments of the Ageless, Monroy is once again joined by original guitarist Mike De La O (who returned on 2020’s The Entombment of Chaos) alongside newcomers Pierce Williams and Brian Rush.  Despite half the band once again being new since the last album, Fragments of the Ageless doubles down on the brutality and density of the instrumentation while still ensuring there are memorable moments.

One of the first things you’ll notice on the first few tracks is that this material hits with the power of a freight train.  Skeletal Remains has certainly never been lacking in the brutality department, but they’ve doubled down on it here and there’s a bit more blasting, especially on the earlier songs.  There were always hints of Morbid Angel to the band’s writing alongside other old-school death metal bands, but the riffs and drumming on Fragments of the Ageless reminds me of a cross between Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal alongside some other influences.  But it isn’t just a mindless blast fest either that comes across as one-dimensional, as songs like “Cybernetic Harvest” start off with pummeling instrumentation that moves forward at a warlike pace but it also has some well-placed lumbering grooves and flashier solos.  There are a lot of small details that stand out on these songs, whether it’s the bass solo on “Forever in Sufferance” or the melodic leads on “Void of Despair” and “Unmerciful”.  Compared to earlier albums in Skeletal Remains’ discography, there’s a bit more variety from track to track and the strength of the writing feels elevated.  It still has an air of familiarity to the approach, but the attention to detail and the way the drums are a bit forward in the mix results in a greater impact.  Admittedly “Unmerciful” is a tad bit too long at seven and a half minutes in length, but that’s about the only criticism I have for an album that packs a punch from beginning to end.

Chris Monroy has been the one constant of Skeletal Remains since their formation, but his vocal approach has shifted quite a bit over the last album or so.  If you listen to the group’s first three full lengths you’ll hear a raspier scream/growl, but in recent years Monroy has switched over to more of a guttural approach.  “Cybernetic Harvest” is an early highlight on the vocal front that showcases just how low of a range he can hit, and it’s appropriate that this song has some of the most commanding and intense growls on the album.  There are some backing shrieks and screams that break up the performance, but the gutturals steal the show consistently and seem to have only gotten more intense since The Entombment of Chaos.  Sometimes vocals are an area where death metal bands remain stagnant for much of their career, so it’s been interesting to hear the performance really evolve over these last two albums and strive to match the sheer weight provided by the instrumentals.

The Entombment of Chaos came close to being a true stand-out for me, but I found myself wondering at the end of that review if a few more tweaks would be all it took for Skeletal Remains to reach that true upper echelon.  Four years later, they’ve responded with a resounding yes, and even though “Unmerciful” may be just a tad bit too long the strength of the material makes this another 2024 highlight.  With plenty of dense blasting, killer solos, and just the right amount of melodic leads, Skeletal Remains has a little bit of everything for the death metal fan.  Fragments of the Ageless is available from Century Media Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg