Witch Vomit’s Caustic Death Metal Promises “Abhorrent Rapture” (Interview)
Portland death metal tyrants Witch Vomit have been at this for a while now. Their first rehearsal tape came out almost ten years ago, a long ways before Portland and the Pacific Northwest had the reputation it does today as a hotbed of modern death metal. Though their start was via local labels and was largely submerged in the depths of underground death metal, their quality pushed them to the forefront of the genre as they dropped more music and, now back with their second EP Abhorrent Rapture on hype-kings 20 Buck Spin earlier this year, Witch Vomit are once again ready to drown the world in filth.
Like all of their material before it, Abhorrent Rapture is brief. The whole thing is barely at the 18 minute mark, but that’s fine—whatever it might lose in length it makes up for in strength, and hey, 18 minutes is just long enough to be an album if you hit it twice in a row, right? Disgusting and simple but also varied and powerful enough to level a mountain, the EP is the perfect example of what death metal could and should be at its most primitive form. At their core Witch Vomit are now as they were when they formed a decade ago: quick and to the point, and eternally obsessed with death.
Read below for an interview with the band and let Abhorrent Rapture knock your brains out.
What draws you to extended plays as a format? Witch Vomit released one before the first album, and now has one after each full length.
Our sound is most effective in short bursts, we pack a lot of riffs and energy into each song and any longer than thirty minutes would get a little tiring. When we only have four songs to record on we can give everything we have to those songs and get the most extreme recordings we can.
Given that you feel that way, why bother with full lengths at all? What do you get from an album that you don’t get from an mLP?
A lot of people don’t bother listening to or buying EP’s so they usually get left unnoticed. Which is understandable considering a lot of times EP’s are typically just live recordings, alternate mixes, covers, or some other filler type shit that’s unnecessary to own. So we gotta pump out a full length from time to time so people actually listen to us.
Are there any EPs from recent years that you feel deserve more attention than they got that you’d want to talk about?
Ahh man I’ve been very bad at listening to new stuff in the last few years. I’ll give a big old recommend to another Portland band Silver Talon, their EP from a couple years ago Becoming a Demon is killer and didn’t get enough praise I don’t think. However it looks like they are getting plenty of attention for their new record and rightfully so, go check it out if you’re into a Queensryche or Savatage type of deal.
Interesting that your first thought is a heavy metal band! Is heavy metal a particular interest of yours, or an influence at all on Witch Vomit?
Matt Stikker has done the covers for all of your music since The Webs of Horror. What keeps you coming back to his art style, and would you ever do something with another artist?
We’ve been friends for over a decade through the music scene in Portland and we have chemistry that I don’t think we’d ever have with some artist we only know through the internet. He’s a huge horror fan so he knows every movie or book reference we throw at him, and it helps that we can get together at a bar and work on things in person. Matt brings out visually the exact atmosphere we try to create with our music in a way that still blows my mind every time he does a new piece for us. No, we’ll never use another artist, because no one is as good!
Do you give him detailed feedback on exactly what you want from a cover or let him go nuts?
I give him an idea for the concept and then he runs wild from there. Matt adds things into details I wouldn’t have thought of, so it’s pretty safe to let the man do his thing.
Are concepts for Witch Vomit covers based around songs, or are songs based around the covers? How important are your lyrics and how important is it that they tie into your overall aesthetic?
Art follows the lyrics. The lyrics are typically the last thing done because I don’t enjoy writing them as much as I do the music, though they are important to the whole picture. Our lyrics have a steady theme throughout each record, and usually tie together in thematic way. For the first few years of the band I didn’t write any lyrics and I would just make bullshit noises with words here and there in John Tardy fashion. I typically still write the vocal parts that way then I’ll put the words down whenever inspiration strikes.
“Funeral Purgation” has a gloomy section of doom that falls a bit outside of Witch Vomit’s normal aggression. When you’re putting together songs, how do you decide which parts fit and what doesn’t? Will Witch Vomit ever evolve significantly away from your core sound?
Typically we don’t ride on one riff for very long but that riff definitely was meant to have its moment. JG wrote that tune with a Beherit sort of sound in mind, the end result was something different but it’s one of my favorite songs of ours now. We’ve evolved quite a bit since the beginning mainly due to us just getting better at playing our instruments, as long as we can progress things will get more extreme. We don’t have this idea that we have to be “old school” or that there’s a certain mold we aren’t allowed to step outside of, the songs we write are what comes naturally to us. Witch Vomit probably probably won’t be shocking anyone with some experimental album anytime soon, but we aren’t gonna give you the same record over and over again. (Next time it’ll be a death ‘n roll record)
Are there any sounds that are completely and permanently off limits?
As long as it doesn’t take away from the song just to add some goofy idea in. I’ve had some riffs get shot down for being a little too melodic, but at the same we’ve gotten away with some “puffy shirt doom” parts. So as long as it works with the rest of what’s going on. However we’ve made it this far without using keyboards, clean singing, or a talkbox, so we’ll probably continue on the straight and narrow path of death metal righteousness.
Does it turn you off when other bands start to add in parts that are less righteously death metal?
Totally depends on how it’s done. I’ve warmed up to a lot of records/ bands I didn’t like when I was younger, Paradise Lost's Gothic, Entombed's To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth, Edge of Sanity's Crimson to me are all good examples of a death metal band expanding their sound in a way that worked for them. But a lot of times bands just try to shoehorn shit into a song just for experimentation's sake and that usually sounds corny and forced. We don’t jam anything other than death metal so it wouldn’t make any sense for us to throw a jazz section into a song just to try and show off.
In the last few years a pretty vibrant death metal scene has popped up in the Pacific Northwest that Witch Vomit largely predates. Do you feel like Witch Vomit fits in with the younger bands, and that the local interest in death metal will stick around past the guys that were always into it?
Portland’s death metal scene definitely blew up in the last few years, more so than I think we ever expected. There are some great new bands that have popped up (Human Effluence) but I’m pretty cynical and I feel like when death metal is no longer the coolest thing most people are going to gravitate towards something else. It’ll be interesting to see when shows are happening regularly again which bands will withstand the test of time and if the crowds will still be coming out. We don’t mind too much either way, we played a secret gig at the gym we go to last month where some die hards came out and tore the place up which was really a sight to behold. The people here that make shit happen are gonna continue no matter what.
Are secret shows and invite-only events a big part of the Witch Vomit experience?
They might be now with the pandemic restrictions and shortage of smaller venues. We’ll have to get creative about where we can play here, which is fine by me, it’s always fun seeing metal shows where they wouldn’t normally be.
What’s next for Witch Vomit?
Got some festivals and out of town shows we need to make up for when the time is right. We’ll be slowly working on album number three, and I imagine we’ll probably kill some posers and drink some beers in the process. Cheers, now go out and buy our new record Abhorrent Rapture right now!
Abhorrent Rapture released June 18th via 20 Buck Spin.