Being surrounded on all sides, for miles on end with anything but ocean can certainly castrate the human spirit, and perhaps this is one of several reasons why the Midwest and surrounding states have such a great history with producing ample underground death metal. Gutted were a band out of Ohio, who formed in 1992 and had a decent run of about half a decade, in which they produced two albums and got themselves involved in the brutality of the heartland scene. They never exactly took many liberties in the genre, so they don't sound a whole lot different than a mix of old Death, Obituary, (early) Pestilence, Bolt Thrower, Autopsy and Cannibal Corpse, with a fairly thrash-influenced interface to some of their riffing, but on the whole the debut Bleed for Us to Live is an adequate treat for those who appreciate carnal, bludgeoning rhythms void of complexity but long on violent saturation.
Gutted was home to a trio of men with the surname 'Ditch', which could not be more appropriate to the music they perform, because it is murder metal of brute character that will soon have you disposing of the corpses of your victims in just such an earthen domain. The bar for proficiency in this band is held very low. Each rhythm pummels you like a carnivorous caveman who ran out of mammoths to spear and decided you, being outside of his direct tribe, will be next on the cold stone platter. Arguably, this band was an early variant on the 'slam' segment of the population, because the riffs bounce and throb so dreadfully that they make for perfect, old school moshing. There are few if any truly -core influenced breakdowns, but the core of their slow to mid-paced material comes across like Jungle Rot, Benediction or Suffocation during their simpler grooves: stupid but very sure of itself when it comes to entertainment.
Horror samples are dispersed and the vocals of Mark Ditch are extremely forceful. Since he barks and growls them at such often measured, slow paces, you really get to feel each hostile emanation as it escapes through his diaphragm and the caverns of his mouth out into the air beyond. He's as much Glen Benton or Chris Barnes as he is Chuck Schuldiner or Martin van Drunen, and its quite welcome, because it provides an extra level of effect over the very basal rhythms of the guitar and drums. Leads do appear, as in "Cold in the Coffin", and they are largely successful in contributing some atmosphere, but for the most part, this is just one stomping riff after the next, all saturated in neanderthal vocals. Favorites here would be the heavily thrash/mosh-influenced "Skeletonized" and the grooving bass and slams of "Chopped Up at the Altar" or the concrete fist fucking "Flood of Blood". Occasionally the band will pick up speed, but this doesn't really suit the John Tardy-like ability of the vocals to truly howl themselves across the graveyard with little resistance.
I like Bleed for Us to Live, and it certainly qualifies as a 'minor classic' in landlocked USDM, though not one I would be in any rush to purchase outside of a highly possible bargain. If you appreciate some death metal that preys more on the atavistic impulses of early man, thick of skull and brow and hunting for the flesh of great beasts and women than a heady aspiration to exercise their frets beyond compare and channel the great composers, then its quite possible you would appreciate this debut. Its the better of their two efforts, and the band did seem poised to reap the sub-genre's surge of popularity during this time, armed with a thrifty, memorable logo and a fairly iconic, interesting cover with a pair of clawed hands catching a waterfall of blood. The one real flaw is that outside of the solos, there's not much of the 'evil' atmosphere that I so worshiped in old death metal. There is brutality and aggression, sure, even at this slovenly pace, but the music won't exactly haunt you, so it falls below the category of essential.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10]