Eight long years have passed since American Death Metal horde, Skinless, unleashed their previous studio full length recording. That’s about to change with the release of “Only the Ruthless Remain,” via Relapse Records. The album’s cover illustration (courtesy of Ken Sarafin from Sarafin Concepts) captures in all its apocalyptic glory, the essence of the album’s title. We spoke with guitarist, Noah Carpenter, about the new material and most importantly, about its accompanying piece of art. Here’s what he had to say.
This is your first album in 8 years. Why did you take so long between recordings?
We had toured heavily for a few years after the “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead” album came out in 2006, and had no time to write. Then, we had lineup issues, then we broke up for a few years and got back together and it takes time to write a new album (while rehearsing old material for shows), record it and wait for the release date.
Stylistically, lyrically and musically speaking, what’s new on this album in comparison with your previous offerings?
Noah Carpenter: The biggest difference is the addition of guitar solos for the first time. We added a second guitarist Dave who had played with me previously in the thrash band, Armor Column. When Skinless got back together I brought Dave over with me. Also, I think the songwriting is more streamlined, with more emphasis on verse/bridge/chorus type structures. In the past the songs were more disjointed in how the parts were arranged. Lyrically, it deals with hell, evil, war and end of the world type stuff, similar to where things had left of with Sherwood previously. We didn’t stray too far from what we had done is the last few albums.
Who came up with the idea/concept for this cover artwork and what inspired it?
I had the idea in my head, I can’t say exactly what inspired it. Maybe it was the album title “Only The Ruthless Remain.” I was trying to think of artwork that matched up well with the title.
Why did you choose Ken Sarafin for this project?
Sherwood mentioned an artist named Ken Sarafin (Sarafin Concepts) from Denver, Colorado. We looked at Ken’s art and thought he’d be perfect. I described my concept for the cover to Ken and he nailed it. We are extremely happy with his work.
Were there any other cover concepts that you took in consideration that were eventually discarded?
Judging for the apocalyptic scene depicted on the cover, it’s clear that the album is going to be intense. Do you think that this graphic is in total sync with the music and lyrics?
That’s one thing that myself and the band strive for. To make a total package where the art/lyrics/music all match up into one cohesive experience. I thought our previous album “Trample The Weak, hurdle The Dead” was a perfect blend of those aspects and I think we hit it right on with “Ruthless” too.
How did you react when you first saw the artwork?
It wasn’t a huge surprise because we saw the art progress through many stages. Ken showed us the first rough sketch that we approved and then we saw the cover at roughly 25% 50%, 75% completion. Ken also created several interior pieces for the layout to bring the whole package together nicely. Again, we love the cover and everything Ken created for this release.
Was this artwork created digitally or was it hand-painted?
Digitally, but has the appearance of hand painted.
Would you consider to work with this Sarafin again?
Absolutely! It’s almost guaranteed that Ken Sarafin will get the call for the next Skinless album.
See more of Sarafin Concepts work