Dipygus – Bushmeat Review

A strong concept can get you far. Even a challenging listen can be improved by a powerful concept that resonates. Enter the evocatively titled Bushmeat, the sophomore effort from Dipygus, an outfit hailing from Santa Cruz, California who produce a particularly gamey hybrid of death metal and grindcore. This hideous quartet are eager to infuse Bushmeat with their own vile take on 1970s exploitation jungle horror. With one banned album under their belts and a penchant for irredeemable jungle horror, does Dipygus’ aim to get by on concept alone, or do they have the chops to pull off a carnal marriage between theme and execution?

While it’s clear Dipygus are eager to fiddle with the conventions of death metal, Bushmeat emphasizes all the ways in which they played it safe. Dipygus traffic in a sludgy form of deathgrind that evokes both the feel and the sound of the worst moments in Cannibal Holocaust. Add in a few Impetigo-esque soundbites, a dash of Carcassian oddities and a heaping spoonful of cryptozoology, and you’ve got yourself a steaming pot of nauseating Dipygus stew. Once the doom-laden synths and primate screams on intro “Ape Sounds I” kick in, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. But by then it’s far too late, because “St. Augustine, FL 1896” has already commenced the pummeling. The gritty grind hits hard, followed by murky growls and pounding drums. Just as you’ve prepared your eardrums, though, things come to a halt, making way for an invading torrent of sludgy, swampy slowness. This kind of dichotomy is a recurring element on Bushmeat, one that both excites and disappoints. Sure, track “Osteodontokeratic Savagery” surprises with its clean drum/bass duet amidst the grinding chaos, and the titular “Bushmeat” contains short bursts of time signature changes on the drums, enlivening the more straightforward death metal chug, but it’s not quite enough.

And that’s a shame, because Bushmeat, as its name, cover and song titles suggest, is a fun album. But I can’t help but wonder what could have been. As I listened to each track, Googled the terms and events associated with each title (an immersive experience guaranteed to blow a hole right through your finely-tuned search algorithm) and reread the promotional material with glee, something kept nagging at me. The concept was there, but the execution fell short. The promise of an album for “headhunters, body-snatchers, toad-venom junkies, cargo cultists, aquatic ape theorists, disaster tourists, carriers of tropical disease, voodoo practitioners, and orgone revivalists” sounds enticing for the extra-strength slimy amongst us, but that mighty description doesn’t match the album I was so eager to enjoy. There are certainly aspects that echo the promo text, and each song’s rich (and vile) concept reveals a band reaching for those lofty heights. Too often, though, Bushmeat conforms to old expectations, it’s murky grind elements and indecipherable vocals lending a frustrating monotony to the proceedings.

Yet, parts of Dipygus’ latest effort work. The grungy mix fits the tone and content perfectly, and the short-and-sweet runtime keeps the homogeneity from becoming a burden. I also can’t give them enough credit for having the (ape) guts to include a Sabbath-inspired instrumental on a deathgrind album with a nearly 37 minute runtime. “Plasmoidal Mass (Slime Mold”) shouldn’t fit as well as it does or be as catchy as it is, but Dipygus make it work. Songs like these make their refusal to further commit to experimentation even more maddening.

That frustration is the true impediment to a better Bushmeat. There are multiple instances across the album where you get hints of what Dipygus are capable of, whether it’s the unexpectedly nuanced instrumentation or the exploration of a controversial theory that asserts cultures used human bones to commit murder. For all the shortcomings in terms of execution, the power and promise of their B-movie jungle horror concept is enough that I’m willing to tune in the next time these Californian Cro-magnons march out of the primordial ooze with another platter of splatter. But as for Bushmeat, I think I’ve had my fill.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Memento Mori
Websites: dipygus.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dipygus
Releases Worldwide: January 25, 2021

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