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Of the two Disgorge branded units active at the end of the ‘90s, the Mexican variant would ultimately prove to be the most resilient in the face of line-up alterations, label changes and life’s general difficulties. Although the American offshoot was arguably more popular instantly with a large audience in North America and Europe due to their debut record “She Lay Gutted” and its two largely similar follow-ups, their Mexican namesake owed more to a classic British death metal lineage, namely that of British proto-goregrind pioneers Carcass (and its first two albums), while its groovier sections recall blue-collar bruisers Benediction, in particular “The Grand Leveller”.

To what extent do Disgorge ape their more popular British inspirations? On every conceivable superficial level to be exact. The song titles and lyrics contain the same amount of medical jargon that Carcass was known for, and while it is hard for a layman to make much sense of either these things - Carcass seemed to have an actual point with their gimmick. Disgorge on the other hand just seems happy and willing enough to copy it on face-value level without much thought put into it otherwise. The sickening cover art photography of a disheveled autopsied human corpse on a medical slab is expectedly gruesome, and well, tasteless at that.

Musically, Disgorge largely go for the “Symphonies Of Sickness” sound. The vocals alternate between indecipherable low grunts and bowel-churning shrieks. The riffing mostly recalls early Carcass, Napalm Death and even Mortician in parts. The playing is frantic and mostly at breakneck pace – but thankfully Disgorge understands that there’s sense in slowing down every once in a while. These slow sections work surprisingly well within the provided context, and had the band put more emphasis on them through out this debut album would have been far more memorable.  Like Mortician this band also uses stock samples of lesser and well-known horror movies. The most recognizable seems to be “Children Of the Corn” which opens the album in a fittingly macabre way. The emphasis is squarely on the level of brutality and speed, and while the playing is reasonably technical – the level of musicality and songwriting is subpar to say the least.

Why is the songwriting subpar? The biggest complaint is that these songs tend to go nowhere, or offer no notable payoff for the few things they set up. The band unleashes torrents of ungentle riffs, bursts of aggressive power chords and a true avalanche of blasting drumming, but the end result are songs that are painfully mediocre and woefully underwritten. The songs feel disjointed and chaotic for no other reason than being disjointed and chaotic. At times it’s even hard to tell where one song ends and another one begins. There’s little flow to the record, and only the occasional groove segment or sample will make the song in which they appear stand out for a second or two. Since there are no guitar leads/solos, the riffing bleeds together and coupled with the low grunting it is at times impossible to tell whether you are hearing the vocals or the sparse presence of the bass guitar. The American Disgorge, for all the critiques one can reasonably level at them, at least had a distinct songwriting style and songs that can at least be superficially told apart. The Mexican Disgorge has none of that, sadly.

23813_artistThis doesn’t change the fact that Disgorge weren’t doing anything remotely new at the time. No. By this time you had Exhumed and Impaled (which pooled talent at various points) leading the charge out of California. In the early 2000s the Exhumed side-project The County Medical Examiners, led by Matt Widener under the pseudonym Dr. Morton Fairbanks, made a splash in the international scene by shamelessly copying early Carcass. So did Belgian bruisers Aborted with their early records in the early 2000s, especially with their third and very “Necroticism” inspired outing “Goremageddon”. In Stockholm, Sweden there was General Surgery who had been doing this thing simultaneously with Carcass all the way back in the late ‘80s. Spain had its own worship act with the always-reliable Haemorrhage. The early signings of American underground label Razorback Records were all Carcass clones of various stripes and color. Just to illustrate that Disgorge was not reinventing its subgenre of choice, nor was it attempting to shake things up by doing things differently within a given genre trope.

The biggest weakness of this album is its basement bargain production. The drums feature most prominently in the mix, and there’s a surprising amount of bass presence thanks to both the kickdrums and the bass guitar. The guitars for some reason are mixed deeply under the drums, and when they shine through they don’t come with the expected weight and crunch. No, these guitars sound rather thin, trebly and muddy. The guitar and bass playing are extremely tight and precise, while the drumming tends to get sloppy and sometimes even struggles to keep up with the high tempo of the guitars. On the whole the production is uneven, garage-like and misses balance to give each instrument its required space in the whole. This isn’t a professional production in any way, and often it sounds like a more expensive demo recording, but nothing more. The album was recorded at Tequila Studios with engineer/producer Hans Mues, who worked earlier with local underground stalwarts Anarchus, Cenotaph and The Chasm.

Disgorge at the time consisted of the hulking and heavily tattooed Antimo Buonnano on vocals and bass guitar, Edgar Garcia on guitars, and one Guillermo Garfias on drums. This was the original line-up that comprised the band’s demo phase from 1994 to 1997. One year after this album, in 1998, another promo would be recorded using this constellation before inevitable personal problems led to a schism in the ranks. Buonnano has since kept mainly busy with various black metal projects, while keeping his love for death metal alive with Blood Reaping and Demonized. After Buannano’s departure guitarist Edgar Garcia would take up the vocal duties. Garfias would play drums on all albums up to and including “Gore Blessed To the Worms” from 2006, after which he was duly replaced with Edgar Garcia’s younger brother Oscar. He has no relation to his more popular American namesake from Terrorizer’s “World Downfall”.

For reasons that currently elude me this is considered to a crowning achievement for the Mexican underground scene on an international scale, although I fail to see why. While this band is as brutal and unforgiving as they come, the songs tend to drone on and on without notable payoff or climax. Neither seems Disgorge to work around a central concept, other than ghastly medical procedures and assorted subjects. Unlike early Carcass there isn’t a whole of musicality to these cuts, and they don’t appear to be structured for maximum impact either. The vocals are largely forgettable, and outside of one or two especially sickening shrieks or pitch-shifted wails nothing of note is offered. The lack of guitar leads/solos also tends to make these songs run together. The fact is that there were more deserving Mexican death metal acts around at the time, such as the occult sounding and greatly atmospheric Cenotaph, who had several demos out around this juncture. However, “Chronic Corpora Infest” is good for what it is and all the things that it isn’t. Disgorge is mostly brutal for its own sake, and the music poorly reflects that.

As far as Carcass clones go, this isn’t the best but there is far worse out there.

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Somewhere in the early 2000s the mid period Marduk line-up splintered with vocalist Erik Hagstedt and drummer Emil Dragutinovic exiting the fold. It was perhaps not surprising that both men eventually ended up forming a new band that sounded anything like their previous engagement. Thus was born Devian. Devian was a shortlived Swedish death/thrash/black metal group that was active from 2006 to 2011. It originally went by the name Rebel Angels (and Elizium for a bit after that) and featured two prominent Marduk alumni in vocalist Erik Hagstedt and drummer Emil Dragutinovic. The band managed to release two albums on Century Media and put in some touring before imploding due to line-up changes and life’s general difficulties. Like so many splinter projects of more popular bands Devian wasn’t bad, but it remains questionable whether their existence added something to their direction of choice. The answer to that is as clear as it is obvious: no, Devian didn’t add anything to melodic death metal, or black/thrash metal. It does both genres well enough, but that’s about it.

devian11“Ninewinged Serpent” is, above all else, a record in stark contrast in writing to the duo’s previous work in Marduk. Whereas that band (at least in its mid period) seemed to focus on one-dimensional blast-oriented high-octane black metal, Devian is anything but that. There isn’t much speed or blasting to be found on this record – and whenever it appears it is only used sparingly. While Marduk post-“Opus Nocturne” was never a great master of dynamics or compositional range, Devian is equally as handicapped in that regard. What the band play is better than most of its contemporaries, but the adamant insistence on playing exclusively midpaced with little to no deviation makes the record an exercise in tedium. While this is refreshing in itself for the first two or three tracks, by the time you reach the middle of the album one is wishing that Devian would just let things rip and change the tempo and dynamics up a bit. It is a one-trick pony, and the trick itself isn’t remotely exciting or spectacular enough to warrant all the attention.

‘Dressed In Blood’ is about as far from Marduk as one can get. It’s a deathly thrashing metal variant that is both melodic and dark but energetic. It hints upon something malevolent and threatening just below the surface - but it never goes there, it never comes out. The track never delivers upon its initial promise. It is characterizing for the band that most of their songs are meddling, middle-of-the-road affairs that do what they do well, but fail to go anywhere remotely exciting in the process. Yes, it stands to reason that it is fun to hear former Marduk members venture into death – and thrash metal territory, but that alone isn’t enough to sell the record. Devian doesn’t go for either direction convincingly. It isn’t dark, heavy and hateful enough sounding to be purely death metal, and it misses the adrenaline-fueled excitement, the neckbreaking rhythm sections or the groove one would associate with thrash metal. The black metal influence is minimal, and outside of Hagstedt’s serpentine rasps there is little to associate it with that genre. “Ninewinged Serpent” does a bit of everything, but doesn’t do any of those things convincing enough to impress. The same basic ideas get repeated over and over again, and the album goes nowhere. There’s no journey to be had. No climax, no payoff.

That’s the major and only problem that plagues this band and this debut. It’s been done before, often times better and in more exciting ways. At times it even feels like the songs of this album needed more time to gestate and to properly grow. Instead they were hastily stitched together and recorded in order that Century Media could push the album out. While it is great seeing former Marduk members band together and writing music again, it leaves you wondering what could have happened if Devian didn’t get signed, and had transformed into another musically more ambitious and conceptually stronger unit. The skill level is obviously present, but this band feels so ordinary and mundane for players of this caliber. Emil Dragutinovic is capable of much better than the predictable and laidback thrash beats he dishes out, the riffing is solid but not particularly strong and the songwriting bounces in all directions, but never decides what it really wants to be. Erik Hagstedt is his usual self, and at least his lyrics are slightly more personal than the corny, goofy things he was obliged to write under the Marduk banner. Devian is just the sum of its parts – and that sum isn’t particularly strong or remarkable in itself.

In fact, if this wasn’t for the label muscle and the involvement of said Marduk members, you’d be hardpressed to tell this apart from the hundreds of melodic death metal bands in the underground. There’s no two ways about it. This album sounds so ordinary, to the point of being cliché that it’s even painful to listen to just because of how underachieving and mediocre the entire premise sounds. Yes, the songs sound good, they are adequately recorded and there’s some energy to them. Yet nothing screams out to the listener, these are mere shells of stronger and better songs. There’s better bands with less starpower that write much better, more poignant music than what these established figureheads have cooked up here. Devian was one of the earlier bands to use the digital artwork of Greek artist Seth Siro Anton from Hellenic symphonic metal act Septic Flesh, and that’s the only spark of originality in this otherwise mundane and too non-committal sounding death/thrash record. And that’s a shame, really… because this could have been so much better on all fronts – but it just isn’t showing here, nor would it be on the second album.