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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.

California was at the forefront of introducing a more guttural and blast-oriented death metal variant in North America, and Europe. Two bands were instrumental in the establishing of this new style. One of them was Deeds Of Flesh, the other Disgorge. Disgorge is the lifeswork of drummer Ricky Myers, who has remained a fixture through out its many incarnations over the years. In its original run, which lasted from 1992 to 2006, the band released four albums. The first of these was “Cranial Impalement”, a demo compilation that served as a precursor to the band’s then-announced debut “She Lay Gutted”. The compilation features all demos that feature Matti Way in the vocal slot.

“Cranial Impalement” is compilation of the second, and third Disgorge demos, which featured Matti Way in the vocal slot and Eric Flesley on bass guitar. Curiously the compilation omits the 1992 debut demo “Cognitive Lust Of Mutilation”, in all probability because it had Bryan Ugartechea on bass guitar and vocals. Notable is that Disgorge wouldn’t truly take off until the arrival of Diego Sanchez (rhythm guitar) and Benjamin Marlin (bass guitar) of formative genre act Strangulation. As Disgorge wasn’t an established entity at the time of this compilation’s release it is a question as to what prompted the release of this early archival document unto the general public.

300x300In broad terms Disgorge is stylistically similar to “The Mystical Gate Of Reincarnation” and “Sorcery” era Kataklysm, but with the technical finesse and percussive density of Cannibal Corpse circa “Bloodthirst”. Ricky Myers, much like Cannibal Corpse skinsman Paul Mazurkiewicz, has a drumming style almost entirely bereft of fills, and his playing is about functionality and simplicity rather than showmanship and needless complexity. The demo tapes feature two different sets of guitarists with the often forgotten original guitarist David Hill appearing on the “Demo 1995” and the pair of John Remmen and Tony Freithoffer debuting on the band’s second demo from 1996. Eric Flesley remained a constant presence on bass guitar through out the entirety of Disgorge’s demo phase.

‘Deranged Epidemic’ opens with an extended growl, and sets the tone for the vocal work. ‘Atonement’ would resurface on the fourth album “Parallels Of Infite Torture”. ‘Cognitive Lust Of Mutilation’ and ‘Period Of Agony’ is custodian to some interesting bass licks given the narrow perimeter wherein Disgorge dwells. ‘Maldororous Oblation’ attempts to infuse some traditional dark death metal riffing and melodies. The remainder of the songs are strong for what they intend to do with the band’s complete lack of motifs or adherence to logical song structure make them rather forgettable despite their strong technical backbone. Disgorge’s music might be completely over-the-top and out-of-control, but doesn't scale high on memorability. That ‘Outro’ consists of the same grunt as the one that opens ‘Deranged Epidemic’ is as much artistry as you are likely to get with a band like Disgorge. At least it creates a sense of cohesion, however filmsy it might be.

The first four tracks compromise the 1996 “Cranial Impalement” demo tape, the band’s then-newest material. The last four tracks is the “Demo 1995” from 1995. The last track ‘Outro’ was specifically written and recorded for this demo compilation session. The only bone of contention is the lack of the first demo on this anthology. A vital piece in the band’s history is curiously absent from this archival compilation. Disgorge and Deeds Of Flesh share a similar set of influences (with the latter’s etching towards more technical outfits) yet both bands couldn’t be farther apart in terms of writing, sound and production. Disgorge always was the thicker, visceral of the two although its fourth album saw them flirting with more technical and diversified writing in terms of riffs and rhythm schemes.

John Remmen broke ranks with the band in 1995 to form the shortlived Deprecated with future Disgorge frontman A.J. Magana. Deprecated would release its solitary “Deriding His Creation” EP in 1998 before going on an extended hiatus. A.J. Magana would go on to front Disgorge for one album in 2002, and Derek Boyer (bass guitar) would be enlisted by reformed NY death metal stalwarst Suffocation. Principal demo era members Ugartechea, Hill, and Freithoffer seem to have completely disappeared from the underground metal scene post their Disgorge involvement.

Both demo tapes were recorded at JB Studios with Jim Barnes producing. The guitar is fuzzy and undefined on both, with Matti Way’s cavernous vocals taking up most space in the mix. The drums sound earthen but natural, and aren’t yet as processed as they would be on later releases. The bass guitar is more audible on these self-funded demos than on any of the label-sanctioned releases that were released in the following years. The artwork was created by Texan tattoo artist Jon Zig whereas Vic Mendoza of California pontifical death/thrash metal combo Ritual created the band’s now iconic logo. The compilation was released by Repulse Records and Extremities Productions in early 1999 as the band’s proper debut would was slated for release at the end of the same year.

An argument could be made that this demo compilation arrived rather early in Disgorge’s then-nascent career. It does offer a fascination look into the band’s recent past and the subsequent albums that were to follow. It’s puzzling that Disgorge took the direction that they did with “She Lay Gutted” and “Consume the Forsaken” as the demos hinted at something more engaging altogether. It also begs the question why the initial demo with original vocalist/bass guitarist Bryan Ugartechea wasn’t included in this package as it would have given the listener a complete historical overview of the early days in the career of Disgorge, and how they progressed from one demo to the next. As a retrospective “Cranial Impalement” is interesting for that what it is, even if it is only partial complete. It remains doubtful whether the first Disgorge demo will ever resurface, there must be a reason why the band buried it as well as they did.