“Murder Without End”, the first Fleshgrind record on a bigger label, after two largely similar predecessors, showed improvement in the drum department as the band enlisted a seasoned veteran. In the decade-plus that Fleshgrind was active, from 1993 to 2005, they released three albums, of which “Murder Without End” was the last. While this is the most fluid and technical of the band’s three albums, it revels in the same stagnation and fatigue that already surfaced on its predecessor. Not even the highly improved visuals, superb drumming and glossy production job can mask that rather glaring fundamental shortcoming.
As the third and final Fleshgrind album “Murder Without End” saw the band reaching new heights in terms of production and visuals. On its swansong effort the band arrived at a level of imitation, whereas in the past they were merely redundant. Here Fleshgrind sounds almost identical to their arguably more popular regional peers Gorgasm. The only difference between Fleshgrind and Gorgasm at this point being is its choice of subject matter. Where Gorgasm reveled in misogyny and perversion Fleshgrind chose the expected serial killer topic in what could be dubbed a loosely conceptual effort. It is faint praise indeed for a band that never accomplished more than being a mere sum of its parts.
Usually an album’s first song is its most explosive, not so with “Murder Without End” as the first two songs pass by without any particular highlights to speak of. Third track ‘Duct-Taped and Raped’ has some creative bass licks for its duration, and a catchy chorus to boot. ‘Perversion Of Innocence’ and ‘Pistolwhipped’ stand out for the mere fact of how far the former goes in copying fellow Illinois unit Gorgasm, and that the latter has some funky bass licks in spots. ‘In Sickness Intertwined’ is slightly more diverse than the rest of the album even though it’s the shortest track of the album. ‘Libertine Atonement’ is a slower Morbid Angel cut, and memorable because of just that. Even though it reverts to the band’s characterless blasting not long after the morose introduction. It is exactly the slow parts that are the strongest segments of the cut. ‘Holy Pedophile’, a re-recorded track of the band’s 1993 demo tape of the same name, is better composed, and dynamically richer than any of the new tracks. It is damning that the only material to feature any solo work was the demo song. Each of these tracks is functional in its own right, but little of it etches itself into the memory of the listener afterwards. The demo track conclusively proved that Fleshgrind was playing far below its actual skill level.
The move into Gorgasm territory isn’t in itself much of a surprise as “Murder Without End” features the third Fleshgrind drummer in as many albums. Making his debut (and sole) appearance with the band is drummer Derek Hoffman, perhaps most remembered for his impressive performance on the 1998 Gorgasm EP “Stabwound Intercourse”. As the drum department improved drastically with each subsequent album both Steve Murray (rhythm guitar), and Rich Lipscomb (vocals) remain on the same spot creatively. The only difference is that Lipscomb, who was never the most expressive grunter on the scene to begin with, moves back into his comfort zone of the deeper tones of “Destined For Defilement”. It is a welcome change after the higher-pitched screams and incessant growled barks of the rather regrettably forgettable “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment”. The only person in the line-up to show a lick of creativity is bass guitarist James Genenz, but he is given precious little to work with. The same goes for new skinsman Derek Hoffman, the technically most accomplished drummer to date, who makes the best of what he is given. One can’t shake the impression that more engrossing material should have been reasonably expected given the amount of talent in this particular line-up.
Even though “Murder Without End” had the most potent line-up up to that point, Fleshgrind does nothing of note with the talent at its disposal. Not even the steep increase in technical chops makes it notably different from its contemporaries. The only thing that truly differentiates this album is the usage of a recurring piano effect. The very minimal effect is somewhat reminiscent of the Nine Inch Nails song ‘The Frail’ from the “The Fragile” double album. On all other fronts there’s no notable evolution from the past. The lyrics follow a loose narrative, detailing the events and deteriorating psychology of a serial murderer as he stalks, sexually assaults and brutally kills his various unfortunate female victims in the most graphic of ways. The only track to not follow the narrative is the re-recorded version of demo track ‘Holy Pedophile’ (from the 1993 demo tape of the same name). The fact that the best, and most memorable track on the album is one that the band wrote a decade prior is problematic to say the least.
The album was recorded at Studio One in Racine, Wisconsin with producer Chris Wisco – and the only Fleshgrind effort in which Broken Hope’s Brian Griffin had no involvement. There’s a degree of clarity, warmth and texture that was sorely absent on the prior two Fleshgrind releases. Chris Wisco gives the band a warmer drum – and bass guitar tone along with more overall sonic depth. The visually arresting digital artwork by Mike Bohatch was a major improvement over the rather muddy artwork that adorned the otherwise adequate “The Seeds Of Abysmal Torment”. At long last in terms of production and visuals Fleshgrind was living up to its veteran status. Yet despite the increased production values and potent line-up Fleshgrind was still nothing more than a mere sum of its parts.
Thanks to the contract with Olympic Recordings and Century Media the band enjoyed great visibility on the scene than regional peers Gorgasm, who were on Unique Leader Records. While functional, and enjoyable in its own right “Murder Without End” was hardly a vital, or mandatory record in any capacity.