overground scene


Underrated masterpieces: Devastation’s Dispensible bloodshed

Every once in a while I realise that some album I love is not widely held in high regard. Most of the time I attribute this to subjective taste, but there are some albums which are so absolutely mind-blowing that I cannot get used to the idea that they have not achieved cult status. If there is one album in the history of extreme music that did not receive the recognition it deserves, that album is Devastation‘s Dispensible bloodshed (1987); an absolute masterpiece which never received proper release, except as part of collections of all of Devastation’s songs. It is worth noting that nobody has provided reviews for any of the extremely important releases by Devastation on Encyclopaedia Metallum, and on Mudrian’s comprehensive popular account of death metal Choosing death (2004) there’s hardly a mention to the album or Devastation generally (maybe this has been rectified in the more recent re-issue?).

Hand-drawn Devastation logo adorning one of my notebooks.

The Devastation I am talking about in this post is not the more popular Devastation from Texas, but the much, much, much superior Devastation from Chicago. Chicago is often considered one of the birthplaces of death metal, on account of bands like Master and Deathstrike. I have been a passionate fan of death metal music since the mid-1990s and I only got the chance to hear Devastation for the first time around 2008 when I found their MySpace page. Although Devastation never received mainstream recognition, it is a band from the US underground that used to be highly praised in underground death metal in the late 1980s, and has influenced foundational death metal bands around the world. I believe I have read Entombed‘s L. G. Petrov praising Troy Dixler (Devastation’s original singer) in a couple of occasions over the years, and naming him one of his vocal influences. Indeed, Dixler’s brutal performance in Devastation’s first demo, titled A creation of ripping death (1986), is terrifyingly devastating.

Dispensible Bloodshed’s cover

Dispensible bloodshed includes seven songs, clocking in at 26 minutes. Two out of seven songs are instrumental; the first one simply titled “Instrumental” is a brutal journey not unlike Sepultura‘s “Inquisition symphony”, in the sense that it starts with an acoustic intro and develops into a whirlwind of unrestrained brutality. The singer on this album is Duane Rasmussen, and his vocal performance is breathtaking. He might not be Troy Dixler, as Duane’s voice is more high-pitched, but he offers an astonishing aggressive performance that does justice to Dixler’s huge legacy. But no words can do justice to the songwriting on this album, as it is truly of the highest order of extreme metal. Listening to this album is not simply about experiencing a rare piece of extreme metal history; it is also about becoming aware of a significant force in the development of the death metal genre. Is there any doubt that the snare-led beating during the fifth and sixth verses of “Genetic poisoning” (and later on as well) had something to do with Cannibal Corpse‘s now classic sound? What about the intro riff and drumming of “Beyond fear“, as well as the more general riffing madness and tempo changes throughout the album? Did they not have an impact on Suffocation‘s genre-defining sound? And I would not be surprised if the second riff of the opening song “Cranial hemorrage” inspired Deicide‘s “Oblivious to evil”. Each song is a journey of absolute awesomeness, and Erv Brautigam (guitar) and Pat Buckley (drums) give the performance of a lifetime.

Dispensible bloodshed was self-released on cassette-tape. How did this masterpiece, which in my opinion was miles ahead of any other death or thrash metal band at the time, slip through the cracks? The very few accounts about the Chicago extreme metal scene I have come across seem to suggest that when Dixler was part of Sindrome he did not want the band to sign with a small independent company (read here), which might have been his attitude during his time with Devastation as well. However, by the time Dispensible bloodshed was released Dixler was out of the band. Shawn Glass (who co-founded Sindrome with Dixler) attributes the disappearance of Devastation and other extreme metal bands from Chicago to inflated egos (read here). In any case, despite the low production values this album has aged extremely well and is an undisputed cornerstone of the death metal genre that needs to be heard.

*Band photo taken from Devastation’s MySpace page