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Fleshgrind

“The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment” saw Chicago bruisers Fleshgrind move into slightly more technical and challenging territory. In the decade-plus that they were active, from 1993 to 2005, they released three albums, of which “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment” was the second. Moving away from the trite gore – and horror subject matter of its debut this second album moves into more earthy and socio-political territory. Even though the differences with “Destined For Defilement” are minimal, and cosmetic at best – by 2000 Fleshgrind was outplayed by a new generation of bands who played death metal more technical, and faster. The record represents a leap forward for a band that never was able to cement its reputation despite its status as respectable scene veterans. It is the last Fleshgrind record to be recorded and produced by Broken Hope member Brian Griffin.

Fleshgrind

It remains a mystery why Fleshgrind opted for a single-guitar setup after frontman Lipcomb’s commendable job as a rhythm player on its debut outing. The installing of Alan Collado on drums, and James Genenz on bass guitar led to a more lively rhythm section. The drumming had become more complex with more fills, rolls, and cymbal crashes along with nearly constant thundering double-bass drums. While the guitar work has improved there still are no leads, or solos – and that is to the band’s everlasting detriment. Had there been a number of solos then perhaps these battering, but otherwise mundane, excercises in banality would have had an identifier, or two. Even though there are some dark melodies and dissonant chord progressions in ‘Monarch Of Misery’, plus a brief bass guitar break and some prominent bass licks in ‘The Deviating Ceremonies’ and ‘A Legion Of Illusions’ – the record is hardly unsettling, threatening and morbid sounding at any point during its playing time. ‘Seas Of Harrow’, the only song to clock under two minutes, had the potential of being a better, more involving song, but it wasn’t given the proper time for its ideas to be meaningfully expanded upon. ‘Hogtied and Hatefucked’ is probably the most bouncy track Fleshgrind ever wrote up that point in time.

The lyrics largely moved away from the archetypical horror, and gore subject matter of the previous record. Instead the lyrics of “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment” deal with more earthy, interpersonal and socio-political themes, including abuse (‘Destroying Your Will’, ‘Seas Of Harrow’, ‘Hogtied and Hatefucked’), conflict (‘Desire For Control’, ‘The Deviating Ceremonies’), introspection (‘Monarch Of Misery’), depression (‘Disdain the Mournful’, ‘Hatred Embodied’), and mental instability (‘The Supreme Art Of Derangement’). It’s rather unfortunate that Fleshgrind would abandon this subject matter to return to the conventional gore – and horror thematic on its third, and final, album. Given the nature of the album the lyrics are its most interesting aspect, even though they aren’t exactly stellar in any way.

As before Steve Murray wrote the majority of the record, as with the preceding album he wrote together with his drummer, in this instance Alan Collado. Only ‘Hogtied and Hatefucked’ had lyrics written by bass guitarist James Genenz. Interesting is that frontman Rich Lipscomb, who was more hands-on on the previous record, had no input in any of the lyrics. While there was never anything particularly ornamental about Fleshgrind and its music, its down-to-basics approach might be functional (and mildly effective even) - on a purely visceral level, and in the live arena – it leaves little to the imagination, and to latch onto in studio recorded form. Not even the guest vocals by Leonard ‘Lenzig’ Leal (Cephalic Carnage) add anything of worth to the tracks they appear on. The least one could say about “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment” is that Chicago bruisers Fleshgrind went from mere redundance to an adequate level of faceless competence, but little more at best.

The move to a different recording facility is both a benefit and a detriment to the proceedings. For the first, and only, time Fleshgrind recorded at Quali-tone Studios in Beach Park, Illinois with Brian Griffin (Broken Hope) producing, whereas Trevor Sadler at Mastermind Productions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin mastered the album. While Fleshgrind had a long history (dating back to its demo tapes) of working with Brian Griffin the production on “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment” is problematic in its own peculiar ways. The thickness that characterized “Destined For Defilement” is replaced with a digital crispness that strangely lacks clarity and definition. The bass guitar can be felt but is audible only in bits and parts of the album. The only thing that has markedly improved is the drum tone. The artwork by Juha Vuorma isn’t very special, and his work on the Malignancy debut “Intrauterine Cannibalism” was far more commendable. “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment” was released in 2000 through Olympic Recordings in North America and Season Of Mist in Europe. In retrospect the only memorable thing about it is that Maltese death metal band Abysmal Torment took its name from this album’s title.

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“Destined For Defilement”, the first Fleshgrind record after two demo tapes, largely follows the template laid out by contemporaries Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus. In the decade-plus that they were active, from 1993 to 2005, they released three albums, of which “Destined For Defilement” was the first. What the band here lacks in finesse they make up with the sheer forcefulness of their attack. “Destined For Defilement” is by no means a vital record, and while Fleshgrind is one of the unsung heroes of the Illinois scene (along with Gorgasm), its veteran reputation far outweighs its recorded output.

1546226_10152220022993523_2024013563_nThe Illinois death metal scene for some reason never quite catched on as much as the New York and Florida regions. Fleshgrind was one of the more underappreciated Chicago death metal units along with the long-suffering Gorgasm. Other acts of the Windy City scene include Cianide, Deaden, Lividity, Macabre and genre pioneers Master. Why the Illinois scene never catched on isn’t hard to see. Illinois never carved out a distinct sound of its own. The New York sound drew from its vibrant hardcore scene, while Florida pushed thrash metal into more violent, percussive and darker territory. Meanwhile the Illinois figureheads were content just to imitate regional brands instead of using those very influences and inspirations to concoct a sound to truly call their own.

Fleshgrind is centered on frontman Rich Lipscomb (who also plays guitar here) and rhythm guitarist Steve Murray, along with a semi-solid bass guitar position and a variety of lesser-known drummers. “Destined For Defilement” sounds as a middleground between “Tomb Of the Mutilated” Cannibal Corpse, and Dying Fetus’ demo material circa “Bathe In Entrails” and “Infatuation With Malevolence” – but lacking the groove of the former, and the technical finesse and dynamic range of the latter. The same rings true for Rich Lipscomb’s vocal performance, which is redolent of both aforementioned bands – but he offers up nothing mentionworthy besides his commendable bite, and percussive delivery. Fleshgrind, for better or worse, was already a spent creative force by the time its first album was released upon the international metal underground in 1997.

Fleshgrind-Destined_For_Defilement-2-Inlay-Even with its brief running time just shy of 29 minutes “Destined For Defilement” is a record that plays its hand on the first track, and never recovers. There’s nary a riff, or chord progression that could be considered memorable, and the songs in general seldom generate something of interest. The presence of two guitars - a unicum by Fleshgrind standards - played by frontman Rich Lipscomb and creative force Steve Murray, can’t salvage the bland rhythm-only playing that Fleshgrind focuses its songwriting around. Each of the songs have the required stomping grooves, dense riffing and concussive rhythm sections, but there isn’t a single song that truly stands out. There are a few catchy lines here and there. ‘Burning Your World’ has a slightly memorable chorus, as does ‘Frozen In A Voiceless Scream’ – but this merely due to the fact that Lipscomb’s vocals are more varied there than on the remainder of the record. ‘Rape Culture’ has a brief bass guitar solo. ‘Organ Harvest’ has a stomping drum part. The occasional stomping, solo-less track helps in adding to the immediacy and urgency of a record, but when the entire album is built around the formula its weakness is evidently exposed.

“Destined For Defilement” was recorded at Choice Recording in May 1997 with Broken Hope member Brian Griffin producing. The guitar tone is murky, and not quite as defined as on later records. The record comes with a thick, bass-centered production that favors crunch over clarity.  Of all Fleshgrind records this one is the most bass-heavy, especially in terms of kickdrums and bass guitar tones. Not that the bass guitar ever does anything interesting. Steve Murray and Rich Lipscomb wrote all the music, except ‘Litany Of Murder’ that had additional input from bass guitarist Ray Vazquez. The artwork by Brett Hess is stylistically similar to that of the Cenotaph debut “The Gloomy Reflection Of Our Hidden Sorrows” that was released half a decade prior. Both the exquisite band logo, and the artwork are the highlight of what otherwise can be charitably called a functional record of a band that was redundant from the start.