Few bands make the leap from good to great, fewer still jump from great to this type of excellence. Such is the case for Portland-based death metal masters Witch Vomit. The past few years have seen quite a resurgence in bands taking old ideas and making them seem fresh again (see Gatecreeper, Horrendous), and that’s squarely where Witch Vomit belongs with the release of Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave. Their sound is steeped in a variety of subgenres (not to mention continents). American greats like Autopsy and Incantation are referenced in both the chaos and the calm (there’s a nice bit of grime throughout), but there’s a strong Finnish element (think Demilich) as well as the callbacks to the Swedish masters (Entombed and Dismember). All of this is to say that Witch Vomit are clear students of the style.
However, all those classic touchpoints may imply that the band are happy to riff within the lines, but that’s slightly misleading and not exactly the case. There’s an impressive variety and playfulness that really elevates the record. Witch Vomit have dialed back the chaos a bit on this, their second record, and that reveals a rather triumphant vibe that plays rather nicely with the griminess of their sound. This is very separate and distinct from what Gatecreeper do – there’s no real punk influence here – but that feeling of distilling the essence of classic death metal into something that sounds almost timeless is a very big part of what makes Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave such a fantastic release.
The wise mix of the style’s harshest and (relatively speaking) prettiest aspects results in a record that is just a fucking joy to listen to. A lot of that has to do with an unexpected polish – both in the actual mix and master of the record and in the songwriting department – that is atypical of this type of filthy death metal. It turns out that adding polish to grime only makes the dirtiest elements even more clear and memorable.
It also doesn’t hurt that this is really an extended EP. Most of the time releasing an album that is less than thirty minutes is a crime, it’s actually a good decision here. There’s a precision and focus that is only more prominent with such a short run-time. Witch Vomit’s latest batch of pea soup is all the better for a wholesale choice to tighten up their sonic ship and push out the brutality and the melody in equal heaves. It results in a new classic for those interested in polished (and punchy) filth.