Like forebears Suffocation, Deeds of Flesh made their name on the back of unremitting structural soundness. The lack of palpable emotional content in their oeuvre, coupled with an unerring, almost mechanical consistency in delivery, has robbed them of their position in the loftier echelons of genre history; indeed, this is a music of few exclamations, wasting little time in establishing and pursuing its brutal agenda, and yet, in stubborn adherence to that agenda, it finds room to develop ideas in ways not available to most bands consigned to the brutal death metal label.
Reduced To Ashes is perhaps the best example of what set this band apart from its peers. Built from the same staccato-dominant, percussively tight-knit blocks that lent albums like Pierced From Within and Erosion Of Sanity their violent credentials, Reduced to Ashes went a step further and borrowed something of the rounded, cyclical, free-flowing tendencies of second-wave black metal, thus offsetting and interspersing its choppier textures with a liquid grace. The result, however, doesn’t in any manner approach the grand romanticism desired by black metal bands; this is still very much music mired in a system of unbelief, heedless of notions of good and bad, eager to reduce existence to a blank slate. Not because a blank slate might herald a new beginning; rather so it may insinuate a cleansing and a state free of values and the ambiguities they breed. In this, too, the meaning of death metal at large may be inferred: while at least some strains of black metal are a hopeful recapitulation of events past, death metal cannot and should not be enslaved to political ends. There are no extra-musical homilies to be discerned in it; the music because of its abstract nature is a music aloof; it seeks to upend, this much we can tell by its obvious aggression, but it doesn’t give us a template for what is to follow in the ensuing void.
Reduced To Ashes, in classic Deeds Of Flesh fashion up to that point, is entirely shorn of showmanship. All hands are instead turned towards weaving a linear yet complicated narrative, a statement which might seem like contradiction at first, but old Deeds Of Flesh brooked no outstanding deviation from the original line of thought. There are no allusions to delicate musical or theatrical devices on Reduced To Ashes; what the listener is confronted with instead is a vision honed to the edge of a razor. It isn’t so much developmental variation as an incremental development; again, linear rather than lateral, where inspiration is found within the constitution of the body proper, not outside of it only to be tied back in in the aftermath. Outwardly bland because of its aesthetic of self-denial, Reduced To Ashes represents the building tissue of death metal brought to fully self-contained fruition; a paradox, too, that the manner in which those blocks are arranged also makes it one of the most esoteric of all death metal albums.