Dipygus’ “Bushmeat”: Primitive Death Metal To Chew (And Choke) On (Review + Interview)
Is there a void in your life somewhere in between Cannibal Holocaust and Planet of the Apes? Did you ever think Impetigo wasn’t quite primitive enough lyrically? Well, Dipygus will probably hit pretty hard—and certainly does that anyway even completely ignoring their delightfully regressive aesthetic. Hailing from Northern California, these primordial pre-cavemen clearly have a hankering for the earliest days of gore and death from when Autopsy and Impetigo ruled the world, but do it their way; Bushmeat, their new album, is no lame rehash of Horror of the Zombies and more than rules on its own merits.
A defining feature of the band, far more than anything else, is the great sense of dynamics they have between repetitive pummeling sections, faster ones, doom and gloom, and even bringing in melody. Many lesser bands pidgeonhole themselves into a single set of tempos or moods, but Dipygus are happy to reach into speed, or trudging, or even into extended jam sessions that somehow work despite the genre (see: "Plasmoidal Mass"). Song flow is everything with this vein of groovy and downtuned death metal, and Dipygus for all their love of brain-optional riffs approach their songwriting very intelligently. There is never a section where a tempo feels like it carries on too long, a solo that comes in at the wrong time, or an unwanted vocal part. The drumming is always tasteful enough to carry forward a song, a fast break is always waiting after a long section of tasty Autopsy-style doom, and when the band’s love for samples comes in, they either keep them short or even play them over a riff, which admittedly is something that I’m a total sucker for.
Everything that I liked about the band’s debut, Deathooze, really solidifies with this one. Their songwriting and riffcrafting remain ironclad, the vocals are even better, and I love the extra lead guitar that’s developed over the last few years. Many bands taking a more rhythm-heavy and barbaric approach to death metal ignore lead guitar and melody, and though Dipygus would work without it, those evil leads and eerie harmonies that bounce in and out across the songs add another layer of delight. The vocal pacing is another real joy, consistently locking in nicely with the rhythm section to help push the songs. Most death metal vocalists in the current year aren’t adding anything to their band that another vocalist couldn’t, but the rhythmic grunting here has that special something that helps songs stick in the brain—another underrated trait in modern death metal, which often just is not catchy enough. Tied together with a boatload of disgusting hammering drum hits and a production job that’d make Pungent Stench sweaty, and you got yourself a stew, baby—a long pig one.
Naturally with how much I enjoyed the album, I wanted to resolve some questions that I had about it. Check out an interview with the band’s founding guitarist Dustin below.
Hi Dustin! Thanks for taking some time to talk with Invisible Oranges. Before we really get into it, what’s with the Ape Sounds intro and outro on the new album?
Hey, thanks for the interview! Ape sounds I and II represent a general theme of ape brutality. There is something morbidly fascinating about how murder comes natural to humans as it does to Chimpanzees. There is that side to it, as well as the tastelessness and absurdity of an ape mutilating something/someone. The primate theme fits well with our general theme of exotic animals, jungle oppression, and the quasi-historic mishaps of antiquarians who have ventured just a tad too far from the comforts of the western world. The primate thing is actually something that the band has explored since the start. Our demo contains a song called Tarsier Terror, which describes a jungle explorer being swarmed and eaten alive by a group of Tarsiers. We used similar samples of all sorts of apes and monkeys in that song. Going into Bushmeat, we knew we wanted to further exploit the killer ape theme.
Are there any specific influences or inspirations going into the primate stuff, or is it a big mishmash?
It's just a theme that we have expanded since we first used it on our demo. It's not like we got together to start an ape themed death metal band. As funny as that would be, and as much as it may come off to people, the ape theme was just something that progressed in and of itself. Dayan wrote the song Tarsier Terror on our demo with the song's subject matter in mind, and I'm sure at one point we did decide that we wanted to draw upon themes of how messed up certain primates are. We both studied Anthropology in school so we had some background in primatology. I think conversations were had, even outside of the perspective of the band, of like "Damn, Chimps are really fucked up, they kill each other for fun and they are like pure muscle mass and could rip your arms off without even trying." This and then the inevitable afterthough of "Fuck, humans are pretty screwed up too, and we are so closely related". That's about as far as any seriousness goes with it to me...I think it has also always been about us attempting to push the theme and be as ridiculous as possible with it. "How tasteless can we get with this?"
Did you guys meet via the anthropology stuff or was it just a shared interest?
I've known Dayan since I was like 5, and have played music with him since High School. I'd say it's a shared interest.
Did you guys get into metal together then?
More or less.
Your sophomore album was one of the first noteworthy things to drop in 2021 and was able to catch some early-year hype from people who track new stuff. Was that intentional timing or a happy coincidence?
The timing of Bushmeat's release was natural. If anything it was slightly later than we intended. Covid pushed recording back multiple months, and we even ended up going to a different studio than we had originally planned. Time was initially booked with Greg Wilkinson (DeathGrave, Brainoil, Shrinkwrap Killers) at Earhammer, but the virus pretty much made that impossible to pull off. We ended up recording at Darker Corners in San Luis Obispo with Matt Harvey (Exhumed, Gruesome, Pounder) and Alejandro Corredor (Nausea, Pounder). Greg mixed the album at Earhammer, and the combination of hands involved created a sound that we are very satisfied with.
Did those recording setbacks have anything to do with the offset CD and vinyl release dates?
No, it just ended up being what it is because of the nature of pressing plants and turnarounds. We consider Expansion Abyss to be our main label, as they have always helped us out the most, and are very open to our ideas and work closely with us regarding how we want our releases to be portrayed. Expansion has always given us an insane amount of support and we are incredibly grateful. He is doing the LP and the Tape of Bushmeat. Memento Mori asked us if they could do the CD while we were already planning on releasing the LP/Tape through Expansion, so we put them in contact with each other and they worked out the scheduling. It's not ideal that they came out spaced apart, but it's how it ended up happening. We're stoked we have two sick labels putting our stuff out!
Who ended up doing the album art this time around, and why did you decide to drop the fantastic logo from Long Pig Feast?
Doug Camp, AKA Uncertainium, did the artwork for Bushmeat as well as our previous album DeathOoze. Our bassist Dayan (Oozing Death Art) did the new head hunter logo for Bushmeat as well as the Voivodian monolith one that was on our demo and EP. The change in logo was an artistic decision partially based on a lineup change that occured after DeathOoze was released. Different lineup, different logo. Why not right? I think it's cool when bands do unique visual work for each release. That isn't to say that we won't use the old logo at some point down the line.
What led to that lineup change?
The lineup change was something we tried which worked, so we ran with it. The only fresh blood in the band is BogStomper, who became our drummer. Sam switched over from drums to guitar. We were considering taking a hiatus after recording DeathOoze because Clarrisa was moving to Oregon, and Dayan wasn't sure what the next year was going to bring for him in terms of living situations/school, so we decided to switch some stuff up and see what happened. We ended up getting a west-coast tour, a demo tape, and a full-length out of the decision, so it's worked out really well so far. We had talked about having a new drummer come in and Sam switching to second guitar in the past, so we jumped on the opportunity when BogStomper showed interest in joining. Having two guitars really expands what you can do live in a band. I love how we can do harmonized guitars now, and Sam's style of playing adds a really unique element to Dipygus that was certainly missing from our previous releases. He has a better grasp on atmosphere melody than I do, which makes his soaring yet creeping leads extremely complimentary to my chunkier riffing style. He's the chief songwriter/guitarist in COSMIC REEF TEMPLE, a psyched out surf metal band that I also play bass in...and he can tremolo like a motherfucker, so the switch made sense to me. BogStomper's drumming is much more Death Metal oriented, whereas Sams had a lot more doomier qualities to it.
Was that sense of evil melody something you’d previously wanted in the band and had trouble executing or is it just something that worked out well?
I'd say a little bit of both. Harmonized guitar is like the best shit, right? It just makes a lead or riff sound that much more emotionally drawing and intense. Can you imagine a band like Autopsy or Thin Lizzy not having harmonies? That shit is just so good. Having the ability to do it live is next level. In terms of the evil melody, Sam is just that kind of player. The heaviness of stereo rhythm guitars is cool, but having unique leads with two different voices is essential to the dual guitar thing. I'd say it worked out well.
It’s not often that a newer death metal band mentions old rock or heavy metal bands like Thin Lizzy. Is that stuff an influence at all?
It definitely is. I think most bands subconsciously take inspiration from different types of music they listen to, even if it isn't overtly presented through their music.
How’s the scene out there? You guys are a bit south of San Jose, right?
The band started in Santa Cruz, Southwest of San Jose. Sam and Clarrisa live in Oregon now. Santa Cruz itself has a better music scene overall than most towns its size, but the scene for extreme metal has died down quite a bit in the last 6 or 7 years. There used to be a handful of venues, mostly DIY spots that would throw shows for underground touring bands, and they would usually get pretty solid turnouts. The cost of living in the greater Bay Area has become so ridiculously expensive that it's just not a realistic place to make stuff happen anymore. A lot of people moved onto either Oakland or the Pacific Northwest. Again, even currently (well, just before Covid) there is a better music scene here than your average small college town, but it's not what it was a decade or so ago. Oakland is about an hour away, and their scene is much stronger, and has deeper roots for sure. But like I said, the whole area has become so impacted by the tech industry and the rising cost of living has taken a serious toll on artists trying to make stuff happen.
Do you anticipate joining your bandmates in Oregon at some point?
I don't personally have any plans to move anytime soon. Dipygus will always be more of a long-term art project than a full on touring act, simply because we all have lives outside of the band. Even if we are all in different places down the line, there will be the goal of releasing stuff and playing when we can. It's a passion project.
Was it hard to get a lineup together in the first place?
Sort of. It started with Sam, Dayan and I. We jammed like half a year before we found a vocalist, Eric Johnson. We did the first demo with him. His schedule didn't really work with ours, so we went another half a year without a vocalist until Clarisa joined. Beside the recent addition of BogStomper, it's been the longest running line-up.
When did you guys first really know that you wanted to take the musical path that you’re on now?
I would say it has progressed more and more toward a more death metal oriented sound since we started. When the band was first forming we had talked about wanting to do something heavily inspired by early Impetigo. All We Need Is Cheez stands out in my memories a lot. We wanted something super punky and trashy but with this kind of doomy undertone. The first demo stuff is like a sludgey grind release, way more than it is death metal. Some of that death and doom riffing is there for sure, but Eric's vocals are the real factor in pushing it more toward the death side of the spectrum. It was also extremely noisey! We played that material for a Summer around Santa Cruz, and I recall very vividly playing a show and having a sort of band meeting afterward in which we decided to not play again until we had new material. We wanted to go for a more death metal sound, so we started writing for the Long Pig Feast EP. That is where we really started to orient ourselves toward a death metal direction. It's been shifting more and more that way ever since.
What’s next for Dipygus?
We will tour Bushmeat when we can, but for now we are writing new stuff, and getting ready to release some splits in the near future.
Do you have anything else to talk about or promote?
Just to say thanks to everyone who has supported Dipygus. Definitely want to thank Matt Harvey, Alejandro Corredor, Greg Wilkinson, Charlie Koryn. Expansion Abyss and Raul from Memento Mori for putting the record out, as well as Andrew Lee for the ripping solo on Plasmoidal Mass.
Bushmeat released January 25, 2021 via Memento Mori Records.