“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.
The 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.
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.