Album Review: Witch Vomit – Funeral Sanctum

Album Review: Witch Vomit - Funeral Sanctum
Reviewed by Sam Jones

For an increasing number of years, Witch Vomit have been stamping their presence amongst extreme metal’s annals and now, their third album ready, they prepare to unleash Funeral Sanctum via 20 Buck Spin on April 5th. Formed in Oregon, United States, the band slowly released their early material via an EP or Demo sporadically however, come 2016, the band released their first full length album: A Scream From The Tomb Below. Ever since, every release the band have thus granted us has only refined and improved in quality and impact. Their second album, 2019’s Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave, was a favourite of mine when it came out and their 2021 EP, Abhorrent Rapture, was just as great. Now, five years after their last album, Witch Vomit give us Funeral Sanctum, their second album release through 20 Buck Spin, with Matt Stikker once more returning to provide his artwork to Witch Vomit’s image. It’s been years since their last album and, therefore, I was more than primed to dive back into Witch Vomit once again. This is Funeral Sanctum.

Witch Vomit have been gaining traction throughout the last couple of years as a premiere death metal act to be reckoned with, yet Funeral Sanctum seems to have really doubled down on their blackened nature. Listen to their riff work and you’ll pick up on the band’s implementation of black, darker and more visceral guitar playing. It’s no longer merely a punch to the face but something piercing and slashing. Whilst the band’s overall impact is predominantly unchanged, there is a noticeable shift in how their riffs come across as. Their songwriting doesn’t merely sound like a brick wall is falling upon us, but it’s as if something malicious is meaning us harm from afar. The guitar tone too isn’t as total and possesses an acutely Scandinavian aesthetic similar to Norwegian or Swedish extreme metal, although Witch Vomit’s identity are clearly still their own. It’s an interesting evolution for the band and frankly it works amidst their current application of songwriting for their extreme metal.

Although the band still hit us with considerable impact, it surprises me to note just how clean and polished the band’s exterior feels to the touch. Though the band have hardly shifted in their extreme metal paradigm, the production rendered herein paints Funeral Sanctum in a coat so smooth that I’d imagine running your finger across the cover would be immensely satisfying. When you continue listening to the band play, there’s no doubt their actual performance is still just as powerful and stern as it’s always been, only that it’s now seen all the grit and dirt removed. Some may dislike that aspect but that is what Witch Vomit have gone for. You can also say that, because of this, all feasible limiters and obstructions to fans appreciating every element of their performance has now been vanquished and, thusly, Witch Vomit can proceed to provide everything on a record they wish to include because their production now gives them the means to do so. By doing so, Funeral Sanctum is their most production-streamlined record yet wherein the band give you the Witch Vomit treatment in a spectacular high definition.

Album Review: Witch Vomit - Funeral Sanctum

In spite of what some may deem as a needlessly clean production quality, I can confirm the vocal delivery on show hasn’t suffered because of it. If anything, the polished record has resulted in the vocals coming across with zero difficulty since there isn’t anything else potentially interfering with it. In addition, Witch Vomit’s vocals have often been viewed as the kind that isn’t going to rise too high above the instrumental mix; they have their place within the record’s mix, their frontman’s capability to project these vocals is undeniable but they do sit within the similar spot throughout the album. This isn’t a derogative point though as Witch Vomit excel with these vocals coupled within the atmosphere their instrumentation conjures. I’d argue the vocals are the most present and prominent they’ve ever been since there’s now that decisive absence of grit between ourselves and the vocals. The actual quality they usually possess hasn’t diminished, but it’s merely via different methods the band are demonstrating their promise to us.

It must be said Funeral Sanctum is an excellently paced record. The band hardly slow down at any real moment yet it never feels like you actively process it as “fast”. The band appear to have an extremely adept understanding of how speed and songwriting go together to craft something that feels perfectly at your side. That’s how Funeral Sanctum feels; you know it’s quick, you know the band don’t hang around, but it always clones across like the band are forever at eye level with you, and their gait of walking is never more than half a step ahead of your own. Even when the band break out faster drumming or their superb soloing, it always feels like you are always in control and can follow every movement the band make. This is just as prevalent when Witch Vomit hurl one, two minute long tracks your way and while these may be written as faster pieces owing to their brief runtimes, it never seems like the band purposefully race through to get to the next piece.

In conclusion, Funeral Sanctum is not only the band’s most polished and presentable record but, it’s arguably their best album to date. Witch Vomit have been recognised for their work ethic and for churning out one EP after another that not only continues to cement their name but improves upon their prior work. I think, with Funeral Sanctum, the band have found a place in production and songwriting and tone that is absolutely perfect for the kind of metal Witch Vomit play. There were times throughout this album where I thought it felt like a classic album given an audible remastering or a facelift. It’s sublimely smooth even when it’s at its most destructive and abrasive. All in all, Funeral Sanctum is a record worth checking out because Witch Vomit truly have something going for them and, should they maintain this approach, I’m excited for what they do next.

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