Columbus, Ohio’s Sanguisugabogg are among one of the most hyped up-and-coming death metal bands of the moment. Their demo Pornographic Seizures, released in 2019, was acclaimed in underground death metal circles and moved units quickly, landing them on the Century Media roster for their debut album Tortured Whole. It would seem that The ‘Bogg has found themselves an early formula for success as a rising act to watch in death metal.
However, the Pornographic Seizures release actually proved to be somewhat controversial in pockets of the community that wish to see the genre become a bit more progressive when it comes to its lyrical content. Sanguisugabogg are unabashedly graphic and low-brow, and their lyrics can be as gruesome and troubling as any of the old guard of death metal.
[Content warning for the text ahead: sexual violence]
To summarize the complaints levied against The Bogg: In <current year>, is there still a space for lyrics about sexual violence? The demo track “Turkish Blood Orgy” does have lyrics depicting the eponymous ritual and includes lines about rape and sodomy. Obviously, these lyrics aren’t necessarily some novel obscenity that goes far beyond classic cuts from acts like Cannibal Corpse or Dying Fetus, but some draw a hard line with this type of content, as there’s no shortage of ignorant-ass death metal out there that doesn’t make a point to use gender-loaded words like “slut” in its depictions of violence, which is honestly an antiquated practice at this point.
We’ve covered issues of sexism and misogyny in these pages before, particularly when it comes to synthwave, but death metal’s history is obviously much more problematic. Lyrics depicting violence against women, specifically sexual violence, is — at best — lazy schlock for the sake of being as controversial as possible. At worst, it’s repulsive and abusive, and metal is made all the more better for stepping out of the shadow of misogyny year after year and embracing inclusivity.
If you were to ask the band themselves, they would appear to argue that they are different in how they approach such subjects in a way that sets them apart from the pornogrind edgelords that the genre is trying to leave behind, particularly in light of their newfound position as one of death metal’s most promising new acts and increased exposure leading up to their full-length debut.
The biggest piece of pre-release PR in support of Tortured Whole came when bandleader Cameron Boggs identified themselves as queer and nonbinary in an interview with Revolver, and asserts that the band is “joyous and inclusive.”
I want everyone to feel accepted and free in our specific world of death metal. There is too much negativity when it comes to extreme music. Being a queer nonbinary homie myself, I get what it’s like to feel weird in a scene full of masculinity and I just want queer kids, POC, trans kids, women and whoever to feel like we got their backs and shit is OK.via Revolver
In press materials, Boggs also states, “A lot of songs are about killing pedophiles and other bad people [see: “Dick Filet”]. ‘Menstrual Envy,’ the first song on the album, is about taking a bunch of drugs and chopping your own dick off.”
In fact, looking at the tracklist alone, it appears that there are no fewer than two tracks about genital mutilation, both of them involving dicks (though the topic is a clear through-line on Tortured Whole). Of course, this is a band that has rainbow-colored merch emblazoned with the phrase “I EAT MY OWN CUM” and who also produced a music video with TROMA, the studio responsible for controversial low-brow B-horror movies like The Toxic Avenger.
So perhaps Boggs & Co are simply and truly just harmless fans of all things obscene and offensive. They’ve taken the excesses of death metal and painted them in bright pastels and blown them up to cartoonish caricatures, refusing to take themselves or their content too seriously. Mind you, this is also a band that openly cites Dethklok as an influence and whose lore states that the band name means “Blood Sucking Toilet.”
Incidentally, the band does sound a bit like Dethklok if Brendan Small had been influenced by the New York death metal scene over Gothenburg’s; instead of those trademark octave riffs and Iron Maiden-influenced leads, we get chromatic chugs and slams. The Bogg are also equally cartoonish and self-aware. Case in point: “Dead As Shit” is as heavy as it is hilarious.
Fortunately, it appears that the band have evolved from their demo, and no song on Tortured Whole quite approaches the specific kind of questionable content that saw complaints regarding “Turkish Blood Orgy.” The band makes up for it in other gruesome ways; Tortured Whole revels in tales of intense violence, mutilation, and extreme sexual deviancy on levels on par with genre masters (if you have the stomach for it, go read “Felching Filth” for an example of some of the most disgusting lyrics death metal at large has to offer), but at the very least, there’s no violence against women apparent on the record. So that’s good to know!
Truth be told, if you’re coming to the realm of death metal for sound lyrical content, you’re missing the point of the genre, and most of that lyrical content is delivered via unintelligible toilet sounds anyway. We all draw our lines somewhere on the content we’re comfortable consuming, but at the end of the day, if you’re good with the band’s mission statement and think yourself a fan of death metal (particularly if you’re fiending for an updated take on Mortician), then you’re probably going to enjoy Tortured Whole a whole hell of a lot.
This record is littered with hooks, and every song offers meaty scraps to keep listeners coming back. Opening their debut record with “Menstrual Envy” was a strong choice; the hook is immediate as the riffs groove with pinch harmonic accents. Tortured Whole lets you know what’s in store right away: caveman riffs, garbage disposal vocals, snares that go PING for days, and nary a guitar solo in sight. Pure, ignorant death metal, in the best way.
Is the hype (and controversy) warranted? Tortured Whole doesn’t necessarily further the genre all that much, but it is a good time, and it’s nice to know that despite their flirtation with death metal’s most problematic reaches, The ‘Bogg appear to acknowledge and address those concerns and refocus their urge for provocation into broader, more inclusive subjects while keeping the meaty riffs coming. What is obvious is that the act are having a moment right now, and are sitting on massive potential. It’s worth keeping eyes on them, because they could take this sound anywhere.
Sanguisugabogg’s Tortured Whole was released on the 26th of March. You can check out all the places to stream/purchase it right here.