Witch Vomit Summon Badass OSDM From “Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave”
Something evil is stirring in the Pacific Northwest… an entity too wicked and vile to exist on this planet has begun to drag itself up from the darkest depths of hell’s abysmal void to take its rightful place as the ruling force of Oregon and Washington’s extreme metal scene. Acting as a second coming of one of music’s most beastly and primordial movements, so-called OSDM revival has emerged as a re-imagining of grimy, gore-soaked old-school death tunes endowed with enough modern twists to cast new light into the genre's ancestral origins. At the forefront of this movement are the folks at 20 Buck Spin, a label which is pushing the limits of this revival toward but delivering in spades along the way.
Witch Vomit is the latest uncovered gem of the PNW, incorporating the jagged violence and sheer terror of Stockholm-style Swedish 1990s death metal into a classic American death metal sound. The Portland-based quartet serves up raw yet atmospheric soundscapes of horror.
Witch Vomit first formed in 2012, long before the aforementioned genre revival rose to prominence in the region. First established as a two-piece outfit with founding members T.T. and V.V., the group now rests comfortably on several releases under their belts. Representing a highly nuanced uptick in their sound, their latest release (and second full-length) Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave stands as the culmination of seven years of hard work and persistence in a scene that once held little to no consideration for death metal of their ilk.
Given Witch Vomit’s role as an internal originator of the now-prolific PNW death metal movement, I wanted to get in touch with founding guitarist/vocalist T.T. to inquire about his own experiences from 2012 up through the present day. I began our discussion by asking him to elucidate his personal journey within that burgeoning group of artists, and how his own musical perspective had changed along with that shifting landscape. While you dig in, check out an exclusive full stream of Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave below.
When you started Witch Vomit, you first performed as a two-piece act with you and V.V. As a founding member of the band, how do you believe your sound and identity have evolved and progressed since your formation in 2012?
When we first started out, we had a pretty basic idea of what we wanted the band to be, kind of just playing pretty simple, evil death/doom. At the time, I feel like we didn’t need a full band to get what we wanted to do across, but as we started writing newer songs, we evolved a little bit and had a lot more ideas, and it turned into something that made more sense to have a full band to get them across.
As you evolved into a full band, the death metal scene in Portland and the PNW has changed a lot in the past few years, at least to an external audience. Last decade, it feels like the region was more focused on Cascadian black metal and folk metal, whereas nowadays this disgusting, grimy OSDM has really be popping up with a lot of prolific new bands, including Witch Vomit. How have you seen death metal’s rise to prominence unfold from an internal perspective?
It’s certainly changed a lot. When we first started we didn’t really even play death metal shows because there weren’t that many bands doing it. There was Ritual Necromancy, or Witchgoat, Cemetery Lust; a couple other bands were around, but it was definitely more spread out when people were still into that Cascadian sort of deal, so there weren’t that many shows for death metal bands. But probably around 2013 or so, I feel like more death metal bands started coming through Portland, and I think the crowds grew a lot more and that probably inspired more bands to start up.
As a long-standing entity with a steady evolution toward the now-consolidated new/old-school sound, it comes as no surprise that Witch Vomit were one of the first to step beyond the simple emulation of early 1990s Tampa death metal and into a totally new fusion. Incorporating the classic buzzsaw guitar tone and jagged, diminished compositional structures, Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave represents an even mixture of the pummeling and guttural American-style assault and the Scandinavian variant of OSDM that followed soon after.
Across its seven tracks, Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave maintains its remarkably focused sound with a breathless pace, wasting no time with transitions of ambient or melodic restraint. The first ten seconds of the record’s first track “From Rotten Guts” is perhaps the longest moment of respite offered to the listener, as a deep and sizzling guitar tone slowly swells into the hellish and violent aesthetic that continually grows in intensity across the following 27 minutes.
Defined by sweltering uptempo tremolo riffs and double-bass percussion, along with a distinctly Swedish brand of sinister guitar harmonization, Witch Vomit’s compositions slither and writhe through densely performed passageways of pummeling full-bodied brutality and groove-laden breakdowns punctuated by squealing pinch harmonics and T.T.’s satanically inhuman vocal barrage. Though these tracks are contained within a relatively narrow aesthetic spectrum, Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave never becomes boring or tiresome thanks to its electrically charged pace and attention-grabbing ornaments such as the harrowing atonal solos that maneuver frantically over the aural fray in tracks such as “Despoilment” and “Squirming in Misery.”
Despite their archaic and primeval nature, the band never abandons their distinct sense of technicality, performing masterfully complex death metal compositions with ease and precision. Furthermore, the auditory timbres are surprisingly fresh and musically relevant; the record as a whole is endowed with a sense of clarity rarely achieved in 1990s death metal (Scandinavian or American) with each sonic element emerging from the chaos as a distinct constituent of the hideous atmosphere the group seeks to create. Fusing complexity with raw savagery and modernity with nostalgia, Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave satisfies as a death metal record beyond its temporal and geographic context.
Seeking to understand how Witch Vomit had blended these styles with an artistic touch, I asked T.T. to detail the steps he and the rest of the band had taken to further refine the cohesive timbre of their sound.
Witch Vomit’s mission statement is to create a fusion between American, Tampa-style OSDM and the horrifying violence of Scandinavian 1990s death metal. How do you go about fusing those two styles, and what techniques and inspirations do you utilize to achieve that synthesis?
I think it’s just the two styles we like the most, and they each have their own important elements. The American stuff, obviously Autopsy, is a big influence. I mainly gravitate towards bands that have an atmosphere with their sound, which I think has always been a thing with the Scandinavian bands. You definitely get a specific feeling when you put on an album like Left Hand Path, it kind of gives you the feeling of putting on a mental funeral. There are similarities musically, but they all have big atmosphere, which is what I like to incorporate into our music.
The production on Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave is fantastic; you’re at your most crisp and present with hyper-precise performances despite how grimy and visceral the material is. The record has that old-school vibe with a modern edge that makes not necessarily accessible, but listenable to the point where it feels very high-tech despite the older perspective. What was your recording process like this time around, and how did you add to that process to perfect your sound?
Since our first EP, we’ve recorded all our material at Red Lantern studios with Evan Mersky. When we went in for our first demo we had a super-specific idea of getting a Sunlight Studios sort of sound, and that’s kind of what we did with our first album too. He’s really good at picking up on how to make it sound a certain way. For the last EP, I wanted it to be a little more chaotic and noisy -- not necessarily noisy, but big and crazy, with delay on everything. And for [the new album], I wanted to keep an element of that with certain things, but overall kinda give it the classic sound of the bigger albums of the classic death metal scene where it’s more full and in-your-face rather than all over the place and chaotic.
Though Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave is Witch Vomit’s first full-length release with 20 Buck Spin (who also distribute material by PNW natives Fetid and Cerebral Rot), their relationship first began last year with the release of their Poisoned Blood EP. Originally headquartered in Olympia, 20 Buck Spin has a deeply storied relationship with the Northwest’s extreme metal scene, and it thus comes as no surprise that they have recently become an active hub for gloriously vile old-school death metal.
Regarding Witch Vomit’s involvement with 20 Buck Spin, I asked T.T. to explain the band’s mutual history with the label, and how he originally got in contact with that musical family. I then eagerly inquired about Witch Vomit’s plans for their upcoming album cycle, specifically if they planned to embark on a more extensive tour of the US to support the new songs.
How did you guys get involved with 20 Buck Spin and the OSDM revival lineup they’ve been recruiting lately? How long have you guys been working with them?
I’ve been a fan of that label for a while now, like Coffins and Vastum and Bone Sickness were on there. I figured that they were pretty close, Olympia is close to Portland, and I kinda like to keep things local. We met before when Torture Rack played up there, so I figured it was worth a shot to try to get on the label since I was already a fan of it. Last year’s EP was the first thing we did with them, but this is our first full-length with 20 Buck Spin. They put out a ton of awesome shit, especially from the PNW scene; Fetid, Cerebral Rot, we’re all on the same label and we all play together here.
With your involvement in that scene, you guys only seem to have a couple live dates lined for late September in Seattle. Do you plan on touring more extensively on this album cycle? How are your plans shaping up?
We’ve never done a tour proper… I wanna try to line something up for early next year to support the new album, probably won’t be anything too big but I like to just play shows here and there. I’m sure we’ll end up playing more in the next few years than we ever have in the past.
Looking ahead to the full album cycle, what are you looking forward to in the months to come? What do you most hope to achieve going forward?
For us, the most exciting thing is just to put our music down on tape and hear it back fully on record. I love playing live too, but extensive touring isn’t something I’m too interested in. The songwriting process and having everything come together is what we do it for, and hearing it back on LP and actually being able to hold it is the achievement at the end.
Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave releases tomorrow via 20 Buck Spin.
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