Sarcoughagus, Delusions of the Sick (Maggot Stomp, 2021)

When Sarcoughagus first came on radar for me sometime last year, I admit I took one look at the name and brushed them off because I was expecting stoner/doom metal which isn’t something I typically enjoy.

The Maggot Stomp connection however did pique my interest as that label’s logo has become practically a seal of quality assurance for underground death metal releases and I made a note to check back in when they released something on the label. And I’m glad I did, because on this debut LP, Delusions of the Sick, Sarcoughagus disabuse me of the notion that they might be some sort of stoned one-trick pony.

This is pure uncut death metal. A perfect balance of slow grooving sections, blast beats, and classic circle pit ready parts.

Opening track “Force Fed” immediately hits you with a catchy riff right out the gate, no preamble, no bullshit, just instant headbanging. The quality of the riffs on this record is overall top-notch with a varied enough approach to keep things from getting monotonous. Tremolo picking, chunky groove parts and everything in between all employed to great effect anchored by a killer drum performance that was also expertly produced.

I don’t know if I’ve spoken about it on here but I am a huge fan of a big-sounding ride cymbal bell on a slow riff and this record does not disappoint in that department, nor on the snare sound which has that perfect in-your-face quality that I look for on a heavy record. Kudos to producer/engineer Cody Davidson (Fix My Face Records, Sanguisugabogg) for cooking up this mix.

It has a certain understated quality that lets every individual instrument shine while still creating a consistent wall of sound. The kind of production where you can tell a lot of work went into making everything sound good but doesn’t have that artificial sheen that has permeated so much of heavy music over the last 20 years.

The rhythm guitar tone is well-balanced so that there’s enough chunk for the palm-muted groove of a track like “Exsanguination” but enough brightness that any single-note riffs still pop. The bass has that thick growl that makes itself known throughout without burying any of the other instruments. As for the vocals, they tend to stay fairly mid-frequency and without frills but this is kind of a no-frills record so it all ties together very nicely.

My favorite recurring trick up Sarcoughagus’ sleeve is the overall tone/feel of their guitar solos. Every solo has the feeling of a distant air raid siren or howling wind to the point where I’ve done a couple of startled double takes when they hit out of fear that I’m being descended upon by some unknown enemy.

The ambiance is real, and it’s achieved through heavy use of the dive bombs as well as soaking the sound in reverb not to mention every solo being backed by a thick slow and low riff. It feels frankly a little apocalyptic every time Sarcoughagus busts out a guitar solo on this record. Listen to it with a nice pair of headphones and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Maggot Stomp has developed its share of haters who think the label merely traffics in rebranded deathcore and I’d say that this falls so far outside that stereotype that it’s laughable. Incidentally, I find that stereotype rather irksome because by the logic of “breakdowns in death metal=deathcore” you’re basically saying Suffocation, Mortician, Dying Fetus et al. are deathcore.

But in an attempt to extend an olive branch to the Maggot Stomp haters, I say take a page out of my book and give things a fair shot. I thought this record was gonna be all slow no go stoner riffs and was pleasantly proven wrong. You might harbor your own preconceived notions about Maggot Stomp bands and I think this record is the one to challenge them right now. 

Delusions of the Sick sounds more like it could’ve come out of the early '90s Florida scene than most things I’ve heard out of death metal recently but it has its own unique charms that make it stand on its own. From here, you could easily follow the thread to Maggot Stomp label mates such as Kommand and Mortal Wound and sure enough find something to like there as well.

So, if you want a contemporary death metal record that scratches that early '90s sonic itch and will make you bang your head directly off your neck, you’d be well-served to check out “Delusions of the Sick” and in general we would all be well-served to be less dismissive of things for superficial reasons.

This LP has me interested now in going back to the band’s demo that I previously overlooked, but more than that, it has me looking forward to whatever they do next. Let’s hope that comes soon.

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