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INTERVIEW and SONG PREMIERE: Vermin Womb’s Ethan McCarthy

I always found Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire to be an incredibly underrated band, as the Denver group’s ability to merge elements of grind, death metal, and other extreme variants together with genuinely inhuman sounding vocals was enticing.  Though they released two full lengths and several other demos/splits, the band flew under the radar and ultimately disbanded in 2013.  Most of you likely know vocalist/guitarist Ethan McCarthy’s project that followed, the Earth shatteringly heavy Primitive Man.  But it didn’t take long for McCarthy to return to all-out aggression and speed.  Enter Vermin Womb.  With a well-received EP ‘Permanence’ in 2014, the group is now ready to unleash their full length debut ‘Decline’ on October 28th, as a co-release between Translation Loss Records and Throatruiner Records (with Sentient Ruin and Hibernation Release handling cassette).

Today we’re premiering a brand new song from the album alongside an interview with Ethan, conducted by FlightofIcarus.  The song, Slave Money, is one of the shorter on the album and comes in like a wrecking ball at 100 MPH.  It may only be a minute and a half but I guarantee you’ll want to hit that repeat button and take the ride all over again after that first listen.  Sound wise this is somewhere between grind and crushingly dense death metal, but Vermin Womb straddles the lines between metal genres in a way that makes them hard to pin down.  What stands out, particularly on this track, is how overwhelmingly dense the instrumentation is and how inhuman McCarthy’s guttural growls sound.  I thought that he was already one of the most intense, guttural vocalists out there but he’s somehow taken things a step further throughout ‘Decline’ and it shows.  If you’re angry at how things are in the world right now, this is exactly the type of music to blast at full volume and let everything out.  Enjoy this brief teaser of how frantic and destructively heavy the album is, along with the interview below. – Chris Dahlberg

I try not to engage in a lot of hero worship when it comes to metal music.  I’m generally much more interested in the music than the bands and members themselves.  But there are a few outliers in the underground scene right now that fascinate me.  Ethan McCarthy, also known as ELM, is one of those figures.  Simply between the blackened sludge of Primitive Man and his recent work with Withered, the man keeps himself busy for better or for worse.  But my personal favorite has always been Vermin Womb.  Something about the crusty speed met with its completely unhinged aggression just does it for me.  So it was with much pleasure I had the opportunity to not only hear their new album coming out this month, ‘Decline,’ but also get insight directly from the horse’s mouth.  Ethan took the time to talk about the new album, differences in Vermin Womb from his other projects, returning friends, and things to expect on the horizon.


TO (FlightOfIcarus): First off, thanks again for doing this Ethan. Big fan. Could you start by giving our readers a little background on how Vermin Womb got started?

ELM: Of course! I appreciate you taking the time to write all these out.

The three of us used to play in a band called Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire. We were a band that no one really cared about and disbanded after 9 years of touring and releasing records. The bass player and I started Vermin Womb about a year later with a different drummer other than JP.  After we parted ways with that drummer (Patrick from Drouth), JP joined Vermin Womb and now the lineup is essentially what was left of ctttoaff after the guitarist left. We put out one record and a split as a three piece while we were still in ctttoaff but we probably should have re named the project back then because sonically, it is a little different.

TO: Any major influences that drive this project?

ELM: Beherit, Blasphemy, Knelt Rote, Revenge, Napalm Death, Coffins, Proclamation, Arch Goat, Terrorizer, Incantation, Immolation, Repulsion & Morbid Angel.

TO: You guys seem to have a knack for coming up with 1-2 word track names that are just the worst kind of repugnant, and obviously the music follows suit. What inspires you to go in such dark and ugly directions?

ELM: Just writing about what I see and how I feel while living day to day. I’m mostly just trying to channel all of the negativity I feel inside and mold it into something that I can use to purge those feelings.


TO: Do you feel that Vermin Womb offers a different outlet for you compared to Primitive Man? How so?

ELM: Yeah they are on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum with speed obviously. And playing extremely slow and extremely fast offer a different kind of rush/release for me. When I play in Vermin Womb it’s just unapologetic & raw aggression, total anger, disgust, hatred, the kind of rage that you feel when you’re about to snap on someone or smash something because you’re so pissed off you can’t think of anything else other than destruction or vengeance. Like beating someone to death with your bare hands. Primitive Man, though still rooted in negativity, offers a wider range of emotions from hatred to depression from an existentialist perspective. There is still unhinged rage and a murderous vibe in the music but I guess to me, it’s a little more thought out and a little “deeper.” Through all of those bad feelings with Primitive Man, I’m still hoping for a better world. In Vermin Womb, I am not. I take inspiration from inner turmoil and reflection, as well as social/world issues bigger than myself when I’m writing for Primitive Man.

TO: You’re hitting the road with another one of my recent favorite bands, Immortal Bird. Any thoughts on them or any of your other tourmates? Is there a band you are really hoping to tour with in the future?

ELM: Well, I think all of the bands we are touring with are extremely talented and write some good songs. I am most excited for Gadget because they have not been to the U.S. for almost a decade. I am also excited to see the guys in WAKE from Canada again because they are absolutely devastating live and are some of my favorite people in the underground music scene. Immortal Bird and Theories are both bands filled with great people and it’s always nice to hang out with friends while on the road. It beats the impersonal feel of being thrown into a big tour package. And I’m not saying I have anything against that, but it’s a different sort of vibe when you already have a rapport with the people you are on tour with. If I could tour with any band right now I would say Incantation because I’ve been obsessed with their music since I was in middle school.

TO: Speaking of other bands, when encouraging people to listen to this music I tend to draw some sonic parallels to groups like Lord Mantis and Indian. It’s not so much that Vermin Womb sounds like them as they have the same penchant filth and depravity. Fair comparison?

ELM: Well, it definitely doesn’t offend me to be grouped into the same category as these bands. I’m a fan of both. I could see how you could draw that comparison.

TO: You have a guest spot on the new Ortega album as well. It seems like you keep pretty busy. What do you feel drives you to do all of these things?

ELM: Yeah! That new Ortega record is really good. I’ve got a lot of inner pain. So I think that’s why I stay busy with music because other than marijuana, making visual art and having sex it’s the only thing I like to do.

TO: Listening to this new album compared to the ‘Permanence’ EP, it seems like the music has taken a different direction, particularly one that is more technical. What spurred that on?

ELM: It’s funny you say that because I feel like this record is more stripped down. We were worried people would complain about a more straight-forward approach. I think it has a lot to do with a different lineup and more time. ‘Permanence’ was written and recorded in a week. With ‘Decline’ we wrote about half of it over the course of 4 months and the other half in about 3 weeks before the studio.


TO: Speaking of technical, this marks the return of JP Damron on drums from another related project, CTTTOAFF. How did he end up back on board and what do you feel he brings to the table?

ELM: I played music with JP for so long that it feels natural to write songs with him. The best explanation I can give is that he needed to get some things in order for his life and so did the rest of us. The last VW drummer, Patrick lives on the other side of the country so it wasn’t feasible for us to continue with someone that lives so far away. So, it worked out kind of naturally.

TO: Is there a particular concept behind this album? What are you hoping people will get out of it?

ELM: The album as a whole is a manifestation of my will to destroy my enemies and conquer all obstacles in front of me.

TO: Name one underground metal band that you feel deserves more attention and why.

ELM: Sea of Bones because they are the most crushing doom band in the United States.

TO: Anything else you want to tell our readers about Vermin Womb or other future projects?

ELM: We are on tour in the U.S. until 11/3 and are hitting most of the lower 48 states. Tour dates are listed at

Hoping for a European tour next year. New Primitive Man songs are being written and we are slated to record next April.  New Many Blessings tape, which is my “solo” drone/noise/experimental project will have a tape out early 2017 as well. I might go on tour with Withered next year as well but that’s up in the air. Thanks for the interview!

‘Decline’ releases October 28th via Translation Loss Records.


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