Witch Vomit - Funeral Sanctum

Artist: Witch Vomit

Album Title: Funeral Sanctum

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Date of Release: 5 April 2024

Being the weak human that I am, I finally succumbed to the increasing chorus of positivity surrounding this album and checked it out. What initially put me off was the name of the band which didn’t necessarily inspire a great deal of confidence when first I heard it mentioned. Witch Vomit struck me as a bit of a comedy name, or a parody but I have discovered that this was an ill-placed assumption because this band is anything but comedic. First of all, there’s the cover art courtesy of Matt Stikker which is fabulous and made me instantly reconsider. Then, there’s the music…

Witch Vomit are a death metal quartet hailing from Portland, Oregon, comprised of Vocalist/guitarist Tony ‘Tempter’ Thomas, guitarist CL, bassist JG and drummer Filth, and they play the kind of death metal that I can’t help but really enjoy. It’s not techdeath, it’s not melodeath, it’s not deathcore; what it is, is filthy old-school death metal with groove and a catchiness that has hooked me in. Initially, I wasn’t sure but, by the third or fourth spin, I was sold, and I’ve been listening to it frequently ever since. The more I listen, too, the more I hear other influences, such as the blackened death of Dissection, or the ‘Stockholm sound’, coined in 90s Sweden. In fact, I was surprised to learn that Witch Vomit are American, not Swedish, such is their obvious affection for

I’m not familiar with the first two albums but ‘Funeral Sanctum’, their third, is likely to significantly raise the profile of Witch Vomit, and rightly so. It only lasts for half an hour, but it makes a much bigger impact than its brevity might suggest, offering the kind of death metal that I can get right behind.

It all starts off in very civilised fashion with ‘Dying Embers’, a moody, ominous scene setter of an instrumental that is dominated by thick guitar tones, a bass that rumbles, and wailing leads that are used more as additional noises than as solos per se. There’s a hint of Dissection about it but, before you can dwell on such thoughts for too long, ‘Endless Fall’ destroys all semblance of thought, thanks to a frantic pace and a heavy, catchy riff with some frosty lead guitar embellishments. The vocals of Tony Thomas are really deep and gravelly, carrying proper menace within the bowels of the mix, a production that delivers an organic yet sufficiently clear and muscular sound. And then, after about a minute of this sharp aggression, the pace is slowed and in comes a real groove that’s then accented by a melodic lead line. From there, the song flits back and forth between faster tempos and slower, bulldozing groove. When the lead solos arrive, they are of the fast wailing and gnashing kind, soaring high above the remainder of the song.

Witch Vomit - Funeral Sanctum
Credit: Kendra Farber

A lively, frenetic drum fill brings ‘Blood Of Abomination’ to life, a faster song again, with more than a hint of blackened death about it, particularly in terms of the staccato riffing that sits at its icy heart. It’s a two-and-a-half-minute blast of depraved and dirty death metal that’ll go down well, but for my personal tastes, it’s when Witch Vomit slow down that the most magical moments on ‘Funeral Sanctum’ appear.

Two examples of this, and two of the very best, go by the name of ‘Serpentine Shadows’ and ‘Black Wings Of Desolation’. In the case of the former, it’s a properly gnarly track that offers a slow groove from the outset and, although there are burst of speed within the song, it’s the dancing basslines within some writhing early riffs that catch my ear the most. That and the lead guitar embellishments, not to mention the steamrollering, chunky riff that is unleashed as the composition reaches its conclusion.

If anything, the opening riff to ‘Black Wings Of Desolation’ is even more filthy and it plants a giant, sickening grin on my face. I could literally listen to that riff all day, but Witch Vomit have other ideas, varying the tempo, but still delivering a plethora of catchy material in the process, the best of the bunch being the grinding affair that hits at the 2:40 mark alongside some double pedal goodness and one of the most melodious lead guitar solos on the record.

Not content to leave things there and freewheel to a close, some of the very best is saved for last. First of all, there’s the sinister blackened death interlude entitled ‘Abject Silence’ which introduces a gloriously dark melody within its all-too-short two-minute run-time. The title track then brings the house down with an initially furious attack but which, unless my ears are deceiving me, then unleashes a reprise of one of the riffs within the previous interlude, a lumbering beast of a riff that gets my head moving involuntarily. What a way to conclude.

Pulling together my love of a groove, a dirty riff or three, a blackened edge, and then wrapping it up with a touch of melody, Witch Vomit have managed to excel here with ‘Funeral Sanctum’. This is one of the unexpected surprises of the year so far and has definitely become one of my favourite death metal releases in 2024 so far. If I were a betting man, I suspect it’ll be a little tough to beat come the end of the year – we shall see.

The Score of Much Metal: 92%



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