Sanguisugabogg Delve into the Seediest Depths of Death Metal on 'Tortured Whole'

Sanguisugabogg Delve into the Seediest Depths of Death Metal on 'Tortured Whole'
There has been a communal yearning among death metal bands of late for a return to the genre's seedy underbelly. Not satisfied with that, Sanguisugabogg delve down even further. The Columbus, OH-bred four-piece (and Maggot Stomp poster children) amassed an underground cult following with the release of their 2019 EP, Pornographic Seizures, with old-school death metal devotees praising its commitment to crudeness.

For any fans of their EP laying awake at night in fear the band have somehow changed since signing to Century Media, let me assure you they haven't added a keyboard or clean vocals yet. The septic gutturals and down-tuned pummeling riffs of Pornographic are all at play on their debut, Tortured Whole, and the band are as fervent as ever in their celebration of perversion.

Tortured Whole blurs the lines between different subgenres of death in its psychedelic haze. Like most old-school banner-wavers, it owes much to death/doom pioneers like Autopsy, particularly in its thundering bass and the foreboding intro to "Urinary Ichor." Morbid Angel is another prominent old-school influence on this record, which can be heard in the seismic syncopation of the title track and the outro to "Felching Filth." There's a late 1990s/early 2000s vibe to this album as well, with shades of Devourment found not only in vocalist Devin Swank's pig squeals, but also in the pseudo-slam riffs of "Dragged by a Truck." There's even greasy junkyard grooves reminiscent of Pig Destroyer in tracks like "Gored in the Chest.''

It's like someone put their thumb on a spinning Mortician record when these influences come together on Tortured Whole. From the first note, it's clear this record is going to be a knuckle-dragging caveman slug-fest. Opening track "Menstrual Envy" enters with the subtlety of a battering ram, dropping your IQ with a combo of pig squeals and chugging riffs in its opening salvo, pinch harmonics stabbing at you from the darkness like those interdimensional meathooks in Hellraiser. If, at this point in the album you can still spell your name, don't worry — your evolutionary regression will accelerate when "Dead as Shit" rolls around. This lumbering behemoth struts with the swagger of steady, self-assured riffs, hockey checking mountains into other mountains when the bass and drums enter. Sanguisugabogg truly shine on"Urinary Ichor," which features whiplashing tempo shifts while hydroplaning between death/doom and brutal death metal.

It's also worth mentioning synth interlude "Pornographic." A beautifully haunting tune, it could easily have been ripped from the soundtrack of some long lost slasher film, which sells the sleazy and indulgent '80s horror aesthetic underpinning this album. It's a refreshing change from the usual bland ambient synth tracks death metal bands put out when they want to — oh wait, they were just saving that for the second interlude. Why does this album even have two interludes? This isn't a three act opera complete with intermissions, it's a sketchy flick in porno theatre; let's not waste time and just do what we came here to do.

This album has shortcomings besides just one too many generic interludes. While Tortured Whole does its pummeling grooves well, it sticks too close to the caveman thing. Most songs get by on that alone, but others feel more like a series of stitched together grooves that build up to nothing. Case in point: "Dick Filet" feels undeveloped and just deflates rather than conclude satisfyingly. Songs like that and "Felching Filth" have some good moments, but are screaming to be fleshed out with a guitar solo or a good bridge section. Because so many tracks are competing for the dankest chugs, weaker songs like "Posthumous Compersion" will inevitably get skipped over on repeat listens. There's also a general over saturation of pinch harmonics, the worst offender being the opening riff to "Gored in the Chest," which sounds like corny circus music. While they're essential to achieving that brutal death sound, there are times on this album when they feel more like a crutch.

But regardless of its issues, Sanguisugabogg's debut puts them near the head of the hunting party among caveman death metal. It's blunt and nasty, a tongue-in-cheek ode to the odious. (Century Media)