Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Song Highlight: Bongripper - Satan

In the realm of popular music, most songs are fairly short and feature relatively standard song structures. These simple structures, combined with an infectious riff or a catchy vocal line are used to get stuck in your head. As you can imagine, not every musical act is aiming for such accessibility. Chicago, Illinois’ doom metal band Bongripper is a prime example of this, eschewing vocals entirely and plumbing the depths of a riff for upwards to 30 minutes in a single song. Despite this, their songs are surprisingly compelling, slowly evolving over their lengthy run times, layering new elements at a glacial pace. The band is a four piece, consisting of Ronald Petzke on Bass, Daniel O'Connor on Drums, and Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham on guitar. Their ridiculous band name came out of a joke about Sleep’s Dopesmoker neglecting to use all of the space on a compact disc (Dopesmoker is a single, 63 minute song about the Weedians traveling to Jerusalem with bongs strapped to their backs). They set out to write a song that used all 80 minutes of a compact disc’s run time, and recorded their first release, The Great Barrier Reefer in 2006.

The song “Satan” is off Bongripper’s sixth release, Satan Worshipping Doom. The album consists of only four songs, appropriately named “Hail”, “Satan”, “Worship” and “Doom”. “Satan” starts with the shimmering sound of tremolo picked guitar and bass, reminding me of something from a technical black metal band like Krallice. After about a minute and a half, the drums come in with a frantic set of blast beats. Around two and a half minutes, a distinct bassline is layered on top. Slowly, the drumming grows in complexity and intensity, until around 5 minutes the whole song picks up into a gallop that is hard not to get lost into. And at 6 minutes, it all drops out into guitar feedback and sparse drumming. This all gradually builds until the guitars and bass are churning along at a fast pace, almost brisk. The song ends with a crushing bass riff, guitars and drums in tandem, resulting in one of the heaviest songs around.

Buy Satan Worshipping Doom here.


  1. I've often wondered how bands who make songs very long songs (and in the case you mention above over 60! minutes) remember all the details. For songs with lyrics, Blackwater Park by Opeth for example, which clocks in at a paltry 12 minutes, I can understand that the verses and chorus acts as structure, and framework for the various stretches without lyrics, but for a 20-30 minutes song, how do they keep everything straight? Are they repeatable? If played live, does the song vary by +/-5 minutes? Or (barring slight variations in tempo) are they right on the money every time?

  2. I know with Bongripper's early material, the band was largely just recording extended jam sessions. However, with their newer work, including Satan Worshipping Doom, all of the songs have been carefully structured and planned. Even still, I feel remembering how to play a 30 minute song that plods along slowly would be challenging.