Gutwrench - The Art of Mutilation
(Vic Records, 2018)
#FOR FANS OF: Death Metal, Autopsy
'Wither Without You' is the exact sort of filthy, meaty, thickly textured metal that spreads teeth and sticks deeply into gums and ribs. Whereas a slice of early rhythm in “Meatlocker” would see its cousin come up in Lamb of God's “In the Absence of the Sacred”, Gutwrench throws that sound into a dike filled with sewerage as the quintet quashes any notion that the percussive New York style was a fluke. Emerging in 1993, this cavernous and hammering cassette was initially distributed by Displeased Records, a company that would also go on to sign the likes of Nile, Cryptopsy, Deeds of Flesh, Disgorge, and plenty of other easily dropped names that pad many a metalhead's collection. Displeased seems to have known the direction the sound would take over time but somehow Gutwrench got lost in the race.
Gutwrench's sound is not only a fascinated with the viscous 'Effigy of the Forgotten' swamp that had overtaken the death metal world at the time, but it provides the variety necessary to keep its sound fresh and appealing with some Swedish as well as Florida licks along with a good sense of flow and groove making “Crawl” live up to its namesake. A great harmony setting off “Necrosis”, sounding a bit bluesy and plenty doomy with some melancholic flair, achieves the pummeling style that we all know and love as it malignantly mutates. However, in Autopsy fashion, Gutwrench drags the song into the dirt so that skin can fester and maggots can feast, malleting those 'Mental Funeral' moments into a coffin fit for an infant.
Gutwrench enjoys the call and response of scraping strings as cymbals storm through the milliseconds between them, creating an unhinged sound that grooves as much as it growls. This makes the storm of guitars in the title track crash with a thick backdrop of swirling cymbal winds and stomp on paper cities like a '50s Japanese monster. The rudimentary beginnings of this band show the strength of death metal's direction through the early '90s, one that relied on raw talent and beastly riffage rather than focusing on production value and incorporating tropes from other styles to create an exquisite sound that grabs an ear. Gutwrench is sheer aggression pushing its limits and making mincemeat out of its audience, fitting seamlessly into its time and unfortunately having been lost by the wayside during its hangover.
'Beneath Skin' comes right out the gate bearing some some striking moments with a most familiar shrill scream across the treble, rising in a harmony, that has me thinking of later more accessible bands and takes its middling pace a step or two into melodic death metal territory as it leans more towards the Gothenburg style that, by 1994, was firmly planting itself. At its heart though, Gutwrench is still a death metal band that thrashes its way 'Beneath Skin' and stomps on the exposed bones of the “Scarred and Hollow”. An overflowing putrescence of riffing and blasting makes such a dissection drown in reverberating muck before finding a rise in an echoing flying riff joined by double bass and pounding snare to make the most encompassing moments in the production erupt from their elaborate catacombs like a startled swarm of bats. Simultaneously gorgeous and treacherous, the massive and meaty “Cain” brings that New York crush to the fore before brutalizing a melody until a snippet of soloing brings this frenzy rampaging to bloody conclusion featuring a slight hint of the synth that Enslaved would ride into nihil nearly a decade later in “The Dead Stare”.
Like the obscurity in which these demos reside, the members of Gutwrench maintained marginal roles in the death metal underground with guitarist Edwin Fölsche being the only member to come up again in as recognizable a band as Pentacle, playing guitars on the 1996 EP 'The Fifth Moon'. In all, Gutwrench seemed to have moved on long before the turn of the millennium and the beginning of this new era where underground sounds are so easily accessed and finally giving this band its deserved due. Dirty, corroded, and very much a product of its time, Gutwrench's short output is as enjoyable as it is a time capsule, filled with gems from decades past and buried in the rough underground but entirely worth being unearthed.