She Lay Gutted (1999)
USA, Unique Leader Records, Brutal Death Metal
For many metalheads, it’s practically impossible to single out one Brutal Death Metal record they’d be able to call the very best. Hell, it’s difficult enough for most to single out one Death Metal album above all the rest but when the question is limited to the best band in a sub-genre, things get even trickier. While I share in/appreciate that dilemma as an incurable Brutal Death Metal fanatic, if I absolutely had to declare only one album as its crowning achievement, ‘She Lay Gutted’ consistently stands out above all else whenever I try. Now, I can’t say with absolute 100% certainty, however it is telling that every time I try to pick only a single album (like the madman I obviously am) ‘She Lay Gutted’, Disgorge’s previous full length ‘Cranial Impalement’ and ‘Consume The Forsaken’ always end up just above about everything else. Of course, there are quite literally dozens of other albums that could just as easily be the ‘very best’ but Disgorge, above just about every other band, exemplifies what I love most about Brutal Death Metal; (outside of Slam of course) monstrous gutturals, lightning fast drumming, bass that doesn’t just tag along with what everyone else is doing,(R.I.P. Ben) guitar riffs tighter than a nun’s asshole/more savage than being devoured by a pack of wolves and a production job as destructive as the actual music. As much as I love Devourment, Terminally Your Aborted Ghost, Malignancy, Cinerary, Dripping, Jenovavirus, Guttural Secrete, Pencil Lead Syringe, Wormed, Gorgasm, Epicardiectomy, Human Mastication, Putrid Pile, Defeated Sanity, Pyaemia, Enmity, Cephalotripsy, Dying Fetus, Cerebral Incubation, Mindly Rotten, Kraanium, Internal Bleeding, Dehumanized, Pus Vomit, Deeds Of Flesh, Brodequin, Liturgy and too many other bands to conceivably list, Disgorge has always been there for me, like my one true Brutal Death Metal love.
Of course, Disgorge is most certainly a very acquired taste, even in Death Metal circles and I’ve known and respected many a metalhead who just couldn’t understand why I was so enamored with this band and others like it. (Brodequin, Liturgy etc.) People looking solely for groove laden slams or immaculately arranged tremolo madness ala Deeds Of Flesh and/or Gorgasm are going to be at least a little disappointed. Unlike the raw assault of misanthropy and rage that creates good Slam or carefully arranged symphonies of death the aforementioned Deeds Of Flesh and Gorgasm have specialized in for years, Disgorge is an entirely different beast altogether; violent and uncontrollable but cold and calculating. Undeniably vicious but still boasting some of the most mind boggling technicality Brutal Death Metal’s ever seen. That, apart from everything else, is Disgorge’s greatest triumph and the reason why I love the band so much. I’ve listened to ‘Cranial Impalement’, ‘She Lay Gutted’ and ‘Consume The Forsaken’ countless times and each additional time reveals so much more than the last. Even though I know all of the songs from Disgorge’s first three LPs by heart, I never get tired of hearing them. Like a gift that keeps on giving, a Disgorge album has so many nuances and facets that even a casual listen is too much for some people. Sucks for those bastards…
One advantage early Disgorge has that only a handful of other bands can ever claim to have had is Matti Way. It’s no secret to any metalhead with a functioning brain that the man is a legend. There are and have been plenty of amazing guttural vocalists in Death Metal history but Matti has the privilege of being the one that I and many others use as the golden standard. The craziest thing about him is that even after 18 years of guttural sickness powerful enough to reduce lesser vocalists to a pile of tears and shredded vocal chords, he still sounds phenomenal. I didn’t think a new Abominable Putridity could be better than ‘In The End Of Human Existence’. Then Matti Way got involved. The rest can be summed up in a few words; Pathology, you fools. As cliche as it may sound, his best work is still his earliest. That isn’t meant to belittle any of the work Matti’s ever done (because it really is all about as great as it gets) but there are vocal patterns on both ‘Cranial Impalement’ and ‘She Lay Gutted’ that NO ONE can replicate. When playing ‘Revelations XVIII’ live, the band still samples the a-capella guttural lead in to the title track. Take one guess as to why; there isn’t a single vocalist other than Matti that can come close to duplicating it! Even A.J. Magana can’t do it and his delivery on ‘Consume The Forsaken’ is the best substitute for Matti Disgorge could have possibly gone with. Really, it’s inconceivable for any self proclaimed Death Metal fan to not respect what Matti Way accomplished on ‘Cranial Impalement’ and ‘She Lay Gutted’ without being a damn fool. Which is the better of the two performances? That’s really impossible to for me to say. ‘Cranial Impalement’ certainly has more than its fair share of downright impossible vocal patterns but on ‘She Lay Gutted’ there’s a certain refinement that shows growth and an uncanny discipline. A matter of personal preference for sure. What’s undeniable is that Matti Way reigns supreme to this day. Hail to the king, baby.
I’ve mentioned several of my favorite Death Metal guitarists in previous articles ranging from Terrence Hobbes to Ron Kachnic but Diego Sanchez is another story entirely. To say that I like his work would be an understatement of unacceptably insulting proportions. Similar to how no one can use pinch harmonics nearly as well or as frequently as Ron Kachnic, I am thus convinced that no one is capable of writing Death Metal riffs as simultaneously elaborate and barbarous as Diego. Sure, there will always be morons who say ‘Man, Disgorge is just a bunch of stupid power chords played real fast’ and of course, they’re completely incapable of recreating even a fraction of the ‘stupid power chords’ themselves. Hell, even on Youtube the very best guitar covers are always just slightly off if not even more so. Honestly, I’ll maintain that Diego is one of the most technically gifted guitarists in Death Metal history until the day I die. What’s more, he’s reached that point without non-stop arpeggios, any conceivable ‘wank’ or dissonance. Every riff on every Disgorge tune is equal parts face meltingly intense and mind blowingly methodical. How many bands can maintain that dynamic on EVERY SONG? Only the very best, which Diego and company certainly are.
No discussion of Disgorge is complete without Ben Marlin, the bass virtuoso taken before his time. In a band with Brutal Death Metal royalty like Matti Way and Diego Sanchez, any prospective bassist would have to work three times as hard just to be noticed. In Ben’s case, it was impossible to not be noticed. The very bass heavy production of both ‘She Lay Gutted’ and ‘Consume The Forsaken’ was the perfect template for Ben to make his mark and what a mark it still is. Apart from being entirely audible practically the whole album, there are so many solos and flourishes (‘Compost Devourment’ has some of my favorite) that any bass player or lover will get more than their fair share of remarkable moments. Best of all, for as much as Ben charted his own musical course his playing proved to be an irreplaceable portion of the band dynamic as well. ‘She Lay Gutted’ and ‘Consume The Forsaken’ wouldn’t have been nearly as heavy as they are without Ben and even though he’s gone, he’ll never be forgotten.
Clearly, Disgorge has never been a band of cookie cutter musicians and founding member Ricky Meyers is no exception. Ricky’s distinct drumming style has always been a crucial element of Disgorge’s signature sound and the stamina, precision and diversity exhibited on ‘She Lay Gutted’ is almost unfathomable. For some folks, it’s difficult to concentrate on Ricky’s drumming given how bludgeoning everything else is. Understandable, but under no circumstances should he be marginalized. A lot of Death Metal drummers can blast but to blast memorably and with style takes something more; a true, unrelenting commitment to a drummer’s band, music and instrument and Ricky has had all of these in spades since Disgorge was initially formed. You can hear it in every fill and blast, every slower and faster bit and it makes what was already an amazing drum performance a legendary one.
By this point I’m sure many of you are wondering,
“So why ‘She Lay Gutted’? You’ve also raved non-stop about ‘Cranial Impalement’ and ‘Consume The Forsaken’…why aren’t they your pick for best?”
It’s simple really; even though I love all three albums ‘She Lay Gutted’ is the one where every element came together the very best. The riffs are at their peak, the drumming is at it’s most passionate, the bass work kicks my ass the most and the vocals leave the greatest impression. Really, I couldn’t ask for anything more out of a Brutal Death Metal album than this. There’s never a dull moment, lag or overload. I have no quibbles with production, album/song length or execution. Every second of every song is better than the last. ‘She Lay Gutted’ is, quite simply, Brutal Death Metal perfection. Dark, uncompromising and a nonstop adrenaline rush from start to finish. I don’t expect everyone to agree, especially considering how love or hate Disgorge and their style of Death Metal is but honestly, I prefer it that way. I’d much rather have someone completely disagree with me and suggest say ‘Molesting The Decapitated’ for best Brutal Death Metal album of all time than have everyone unanimously agree on ‘She Lay Gutted’s dominance. It makes me appreciate the album so much more having to actually *think* about why I love it so much than just taking that fact for granted.
As far as Disgorge’s future is concerned, I’m very much looking forward to any and all new material from either the newly reformed Disgorge or To Violently Vomit. Although ‘Parallels Of Infinite Torture’ was easily my least favorite LP from the band, it was by no means a bad or even mediocre album. The fact that it was able to be a really good album after the three masterpieces that preceded it is satisfying in of itself. Although I do think ‘And The Weak Shall Perish’ (or whatever the new album ends up being called) will be much better. Nate Twyman and Oscar Ramirez have some massive shoes to fill but I’m confident they’ll maintain the standard of excellence Disgorge has flawlessly upheld for 20 years. Here’s to a very bright and brutal future. Welcome back Disgorge; I’ve missed you. \m/