Holy fuck 2020 has been a year. So many bizarre, outrageous, imagine-if-that-really-happened moments have come to pass, in rapid succession no less, that to keep track of them alone is a daunting task. This proliferative madness that is part of our everyday life has made parody almost pointless, and any new attempt at it must reach deep into the innards of the universe to even make it to our radar. So it’s no surprise that 2020 has birthed another gut-twisting Borat film, nor that deathgrind grandfathers Goratory have climbed out of hell long enough to record their new, debaucherous new full-length Sour Grapes.
With 16 years between their last record and this one, it is remarkable how much of their mid-aughts intensity Goratory has retained. The riffing on this record easily stands its ground against any deathcore album from that era—even the production and mix seem to wax nostalgic. The band’s choice to re-record a classic track from their first album, Sexual Intercorpse, even provides a touchstone for returning fans to reconnect with the band’s past while embracing their new sound.
If there is a waiting room before the great meatgrinder death that seems to await us all, Sour Grapes is the music they play over the speakers. The band’s blend of death metal melodics and grindcore thrashing makes for a dizzying listen—Drummer Darren Cesca spends at least half of every track blasting at wild tempos. The guitars sew together riff after complex riff, running melodies up and down the neck. The bass guitar’s twangy tone has each note snapping through the speakers. The vocals vomit sickening images all over each tune, switching between bassy growls, bright screeches, and plenty of preposterous pig squealing.
The members of Goratory are all clear masters of their instruments, and clearly unstoppable as a unit. The compositions are audible labyrinths of syncopation and time signature changes, every one of which is pulled off with obsessive precision. Even at the absurdly-fast tempos the band seems to love, they nail every single transition, every single hit, without error—the intro to “I Shit Your Parents” is a masterpiece of meticulous musicianship. And though Goratory never once dial down their barbaric intensity on Sour Grapes, spotlight moments like the bass riffing in “Bottom Feeder” or the headcracking drum breaks in “Rat King” serve as breathers between the onslaught of tremolo picking and blastbeats. And speaking of blastbeats…
Damn. Just damn.
Goratory’s instrumental approach has vastly matured since their last release, but as their band name suggests, there is still plenty of filth and horror to be had on Sour Grapes. “I Shit Your Pants” tells the story of an experimental doctor dosing a Burning Man group with tainted acid, as well as the bowel-twisting aftermath once the drug takes effect. “Rat King” elaborates the phenomenon of rats becoming inexorably stuck together by the filth they live in: “Physically drowning in a sea of sludge / …Rat bodies start to stick to one another / Binding in rot.”
This delving into smut and muck goes beyond general grossness too: “The People’s Temple” recounts the horrifying deaths of nearly a thousand people at the hands of cult leader Jim Jones. “Seth Putnam was a Sensitive Man” describes a horrifying afterlife for the famously problematic frontman of the famously problematic grind band Anal Cunt (a funny decision to make, given that many of Goratory’s older songs embrace that same fucked headspace as A.C.). But this is what we come here for—nobody names their band Goratory and then writes about anything less than brutal murder or “swimming in semen since your life has ceased.”
To no one’s surprise, Sour Grapes is a menagerie of horror, a skinless corpse handing out water balloons full of pus to anyone in sight. There is a clear maturation Goratory exhibits in their instrumentation, building fresh complexities and fearless performances into the hearts of the songs. The shitshow that is 2020 has really shaken loose some long-dormant demons. Goratory has been collecting them into a chorus of darkness churning out songs, and I have a feeling we’re only in the first intermission.
My Top Track: “The People’s Temple”
Sour Grapes is (fittingly) out on Everlasting Spew; you can buy physicals off of Bandcamp or stream the album on Spotify. For all things Goratory, follow them on Facebook and Instagram @goratoryofficial.