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After having parted ways with the demo line-ups drummer Ricky Myers rebuild Disgorge from the ground up. The recently dissolved Strangulation had two of its members pooling to Disgorge. The album is the recording debut of its newly established line-up. In this constellation, which lasted from 1992 to 2006, Disgorge released four albums on a variety of labels, of which this is the first. “She Lay Gutted” features the classic line-up of founder Ricky Myers (drums), along with Benjamin Marlin (bass guitar), Diego Sanchez (rhythm guitar) and celebrated vocalist Matti Way. For better or worse the album introduced a more violent interpretation of the 90s death metal sound.

Frontman Matti Way has a very wet inflection that is reminiscent of Demilich vocalist Antti Boman or Gorefest’s Jan-Chris de Koeijer (during the “Mindloss” era), but dialed up to-then-contemporary brutality standards. While tonally similar he lacks the emotive delivery of both, his range is the only redeeming factor. Way hardly, if ever, intonates (or properly articulates), and while undoubtly intense in a purely visceral sense, his cavernous vocals tend be one-dimensional at best. A Daniel Corchado or Craig Pillard he certainly is not. It could be argued that even Will Rahmer’s vocals are better. There are guest backing vocals by Deeds Of Flesh vocalist/guitarist Erik Lindmark on the album, but his shrieks offer little solace, and are fairly forgettable in the grand scheme of things.

While Disgorge categorically refuses to solo a good deal of the rhythm parts function as such. Benjamin Marlin provides the music with a throbbing backbone, but due to the unflattering production his funky licks are seldomly properly heard. Diego Sanchez’ playing style is very similar to that of Hill, and Remmen/Freithoffer. Despite two-thirds of the band being new recruits the Disgorge sound remained intact. “She Lay Gutted” follows the direction of the preceding demos closely, but increases the density levels and overall percussive thrust. “She Lay Gutted” doesn’t so much flow as it stutters, stomps and hammers, usually at a breakneck pace. Unlike fellow Californians Deeds Of Flesh, whose music usually comprised of various shifting riff schematics and tempo changes within a linear song structure, the music of Disgorge is mostly about concrete impact.

Matti1‘Revelations XVIII’ is a thematical precursor to the next album “Consume the Forsaken”. The remainder of “She Lay Gutted”, as the title rather unsubtlely implies, revolves around supposedly shocking gore lyrically, and it is exactly as tired and trite as it sounds. None of the lyrics are particularly well-written, and others pile words, random sentences and half-thoughts together with no no sense of flow, narrative or even logical form. Some of these lyrics read as if they were penned by non-native English speakers. These banal exercises in shock are contrasted by the surprisingly well-written lyrics to ‘Revelations XVIII’, ‘False Conception’ and ‘Disfigured Catacombs’. Which lyrics were penned by Way, and which were a collaborative effort, remains yet to been.

At least Knoxville, Tennessee power trio Brodequin approached its matter-of-fact lyrics about torture techniques through history more intelligently. That isn’t to say that Brodequin’s lyrics were in any way more subtle or tactful. Said band’s descriptive approach fit well with its relentless assault. The disconnect between the opening track and the rest of the album is jarring to say the least. Most of the songs clock in under the three-minute mark, and the great majority of them sound underdeveloped at that. Only ‘Revelations XVIII’, ‘Exhuming the Disemboweled’ and ‘Sodomize the Bleeding’ can charitably be called actual songs. Thankfully, Disgorge would rectify this songwriting defect on its future releases making said records more tolerable in the process.

As a lot of death metal bands of the day Disgorge at no point attempts to infuse its music with a degree of evilness or hatefullness. The only songs that remotely try to capture the old death metal spirit are ‘Revelations XVIII’ and ‘False Conception’. Both tracks use a few brief eerie chord progressions, and its slow sections are effectively malevolent in spirit. The alternating growl-shriek vocals in the former are reminiscent of prime era Deicide. The chiming funeral bell and sampled thunderstorm that introduces the a capella conclusion in ‘Revelations XVIII’ is the farthest the record goes in establishing some and any kind of atmosphere. The compact double bass break in ‘False Conception’ offers a brief pause. ‘Womb Full Of Scabs’ was a re-recorded track from the 1992 “Cognitive Lust Of Mutilation” demo tape – that it sounds different from the rest of the album is expected, as it was written with a different rhythm guitarist and bass guitarist.

The essence of Disgorge as a band is the interaction between drummer Ricky Myers and rhythm guitarist Diego Sanchez. Both seem constantly at odds with each other which results in schizophrenic song structures that are all over the place compositionally but somehow never become incoherent. Benjamin Marlin (bass guitar) and Matti Way (vocals) are subordinate to the domination of the two principal players/songwriters, and as such their performances are merely adequate within the small window that they are allowed to work. As a result of the two main players constantly duking it out the Disgorge sound is completely bereft of both atmosphere and groove. It has neither the structural rigidness of Deeds Of Flesh, nor any of the Cannibal Corpse “The Bleeding” inspired hook/groove-laden writing that informed the first two Sepsism records. Matti Way’s defection would instigate the band’s lamentable tradition of having a different frontman for each subsequent record. The nearly constant revolving frontman position has kept (and continues to keep) Disgorge from unlocking its full potential as a collective, and reaching higher echelons within the industry. It is truly unfortunate.

“She Lay Gutted” was recorded, mixed and mastered in the death metal factory of the day Moon Productions in Arroyo Grande, California with Thomas E. Gingell producing. Gingell had engineered formative records by Deeds Of Flesh and Sepsism in the years before. To the album’s detriment the thick production does obscure many intricacies of Sanchez’ guitar playing, and buries, perhaps unintentionally, Marlin’s bass licks under Way’s cavernous and all-encompassing vocals. The drum tone isn’t too overly processed but it isn’t very defined either. At least there’s a distinct difference between the snares/toms and the kickdrums. Marlin’s bass guitar can be heard but isn’t allowed a lot of space within the mix. Although he mostly doubles the guitars there are interesting licks whenever the music ever so briefly allows. The artwork by then up-and-coming Texan tattoo artist Jon Zig was one of his better canvasses. Thanks to the commissioning of his work by both California institutions Disgorge and Deeds Of Flesh he would become the hot new artist for underground death metal bands across the globe. Zig’s work would come to define the early 2000s in North America and abroad.

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By the time “Mark Of the Legion”, the fourth Deeds Of Flesh album, was released the band had reached a new level of internal stability. The record is a very loose concept album about conflict and warfare through out the ages. It was the recording debut for new skinsman Mike Hamilton, and the last to sound bass-heavy, crunchy and organic in any way. This due to the fact that it was the last to be recorded at Moon Productions in Arroyo Grande, California with Thomas E. Gingell producing. Next to introducing drummer Mike Hamilton, the trio opted for a more linear writing style. While the drumming intensified, it wasn’t nearly as diverse as it was. On top of that it was most sound effect heavy record since the band’s 1996 genre-defining debut “Trading Pieces”.

Continuing its lyrical maturation “Mark Of the Legion” deals with a number of varying real world subjects. ‘Cleansed By Fire’ details how the creation of tribal god images, and how religion as a political tool has led to fear, blind panic and warmongering. ‘An Eternity Of Feasting and Brawling’ is about Viking afterlife in Valhalla. ‘Spewing Profligacy’ is entirely made up of famous serial killer quotes. ‘Fulfilled In Warfare’ details the history of Eurasian conqueror Attila the Hun. ‘Contest Of Wills’ is about the gladiatorial fights in ancient Rome. ‘Master Of Murder’ starts off with an exciting drum roll, and has far more diverse rhythm guitar work compared to the rest of the album. The mostly instrumental ‘Drink the Blood’ is built around a quote of UK serial killer John George Haigh, otherwise known as the “Acid Bath Murderer”. The track is reminiscent of the band’s earlier material in that it is more deliberately paced, and varied than the main portion of the record. In fact it is the only track on the record to sound far more malevolent, and darker than all that precedes it. Hamilton’s drumming is more intense, but not nearly as diversified as prior drummer Brad Palmer, or original skinsman Joey Heaslet.

deedsoffleshwallHamilton’s drumming is more based around blasts and his assault isn’t diversified with interesting fills, rolls, and cymbal crashes. Likewise does his near constant use of the double bass pedals invalidate its intended function, which is to add to the overall heaviness quote and to accentuate especially intense sections. While technically superior in both technique and stamina to his predecessors Mike Hamilton is as much a bane as he is a blessing. The real strength lies in the interplay between rhythm guitarist Erik Lindmark and bass guitarist Jacoby Kingston, both of whom share vocal duties. It goes without saying that at this point the trio’s music would have benefitted tremendously from the inclusion of guitar leads. The inclusion of introductory cinematic studio effects is a negligible attempt to set the scene for each of the songs. These studio enhancements are successful on a surface level but hardly add anything worthwile to the songs they introduce. The songs have become more densely composed, and the riffs now shift even more than they flow. Whatever little nuance “Path Of the Weakening” had is completely abandoned for a more linear writing style that sacrifices subtle melody for increased atonality. Adding to the linearity is the drumming of Mike Hamilton that focuses on percussive propulsion and blastbeats over interesting fills, rolls and cymbal crashes. ‘Fulfilled In Warfare’ briefly allows Kingston to show off his picking skills on bass guitar but it is a throwaway moment in the grand scheme of things. The band’s lyrical maturation is stunted by their refusal to move away even an inch from its established, and decidedly narrow, direction. As such “Mark Of the Legion” is technically impressive, but completely flaccid and soulless.

“Mark Of the Legion” was the last Deeds Of Flesh album to be recorded at Moon Productions in Arroyo Grande, California with Thomas E. Gingell producing. As before it is fittingly bass-heavy with a concrete bass guitar tone, and powerful kickdrums. The guitar tone has increased in clarity, definition and texture, but has lost the thickness that defined the band’s early era. Coincidentally, this was the last album to feature artwork by tattoo artist Jon Zig. To give the record the required marketing push a music video was shot for the track ‘Cleansed By Fire’. In all aspects that matter “Mark Of the Legion” was a considerable leap forward for Deeds Of Flesh artistically. Not even the barrage of introductory sound effects serve to annoy or aggrevate in the long run. Even though the production starts to get more digital and less crunchy the record is still warm sounding. It wouldn’t be until this album’s two successors that Deeds Of Flesh increasingly started to sound overly digital and triggered, which is a well-known ill of contemporary variants of the genre. Deeds Of Flesh for the most part avoided that fate on “Mark Of the Legion”.

As a transitional record it is consistent with the band’s established style while introducing some subtle novelties. Not all changes are improvements necessarily. The visual aspect has improved tremendously compared to the band’s early output. The production values are both a blessing and a curse. All instruments never sounded more clear and pristine, but in the process of digitalization they have also lost a lot of their crunch and much-needed weight. That isn’t to say that Deeds Of Flesh aren’t bass-heavy. The production puts a greater focus on clarity and as a result both the bass guitar and kickdrums, the typical providers of bass-heaviness within a metal context, are pushed to the background, or just robbed of its innate heaviness altogether. What the band wins in productional sheen it loses in visceral intensity and concrete heaviness. At least fellow Californians Disgorge never had this particular problem, though they had some of their own.