Review by Nathan on November 7, 2020.
Humour in metal is a tricky proposition for me, and usually any attempts to shoehorn it into a gore-soaked brutal death metal aesthetic come across as slightly off putting at best and uncomfortable-in-a-not-good-way at the worst. For whatever reason, though, Goratory has always had a certain endearing charm that allows me to overcome the off putting misogyny and toilet humor, mixing the dark and the ridiculous in a way that allows me to detach it from reality enough to find it entertaining. For my money, they're the only band that could get away with opening an album with a track titled 'George Clinton and the 9 Year Old Gutter Slut'.
Part of the reason the band can get away with such blatantly disgusting subject matter is because the musicianship has always been surprisingly adept, with tons sudden bass licks, manic and superb drumming and unflinching commitment to oddly detailed storytelling, even with absurd, inane lyrical topics. Given the pedigree of some of the bands associated with Goratory at one time or another (Deeds of Flesh, Arsis, Job for a Cowboy, Abnormality, The Black Dahlia Murder, Despised Icon), it starts to make a little bit more sense. I guess back in the day, in order to be a successful extreme metal musician in the New England area, first you were required to do a stint in Goratory and write songs about farting/anally injecting Death Sperm /finishing it off with a Cleveland steamer.
There was a long period of dormancy, seemingly because most of the key cogs in the machine went on to bigger bands that had slightly more accessible lyrical content - with the notable exception of Sexcrement, which Adam Mason used to go even further down the deranged and perverted rabbit hole. It appeared as though Goratory was a legend of the past, but now they've returned after over a decade with heaps more professionalism and polish. That's a risky proposition, because there's a chance that the music loses the ridiculous, over-the-top charm it had before - it's even harder to retain that edginess in 2020 when everyone already out-grossed each other a decade prior, and the novelty of toilet humor brutal death metal has evaporated.
Sure enough, this does have a different flavor than those who are more familiar with Orgasm Induced Diarrhea may expect - the lyrics are decipherable if you follow along, the guitars use a lot more leads and modern dissonant chords to supplement the blast'n'groove base, and the production has a lot more of a crisp punch that really lets the filthy bass licks stand out. The riffs have an insane amount of detail, rarely repeating but the songs still sound organized amidst the chaos. Every song telling a grotesque, misanthropic story with a sardonic humor lining the underbelly that makes it even creepier. There's an added dollop of seriousness - these dudes are no longer teenagers, and some of their previous subject matter would have been too juvenile even for their standards - but they still throw in a few of their signature 'what the fuck' moments, with a song about making a bunch of hippies shit themselves uncontrollably and killing them by lighting the resulting farts on fire, and another track being one of the most hilariously vicious
roasts of Seth Putnam I've heard.
I didn’t think it would have been possible for a band like Goratory to reform - their charm and appeal was a rare combination of elements that wouldn't have the same novelty now, and I certainly would have thought that added more maturity to their sound would have made them boring. Yet here we are, and I find myself coming back to Sour Grapes more frequently than I ever did their earlier albums. Darren Cesca is no slouch, and he actually played on their 2004 album as well, so it's not like this is a slapped-on session performance - this guy is a core member. He uses a lot of clever cymbal work to make the riffs jump at you more, and has enough dynamics and restraint so you can listen to the album all the way through without getting overwhelmed. Cesca's always been a very skilled drummer, but this may be the most... musical he's sounded that I can think of. The same goes for Adam Mason, who uses a nice variety of squeals, shrieks, and high rasps to complement his fast, sloppy-but-somehow-still-tight growls, and it makes the entertainment factor of the vocals go beyond reading the lyrics in isolation.
Basically, when you get right down to it, Goratory are still perverts with huge balls, they’re just... professional perverts now. Like a dude in a suit with a briefcase and his 20 pound nutsack dragging behind him as he briskly hustles to work.
Sour Grapes is still entertaining, but there’s more attention paid to the little things, and it makes for one of the most technical and entertaining albums I've heard this year.
Rating: 9 out of 10539