After kicking up a noisy black/death metal racket on 2014’s two track cassette demo Edict, New Zealand’s Vesicant have since gone from a three piece to a two piece and unleashed their first full length effort Shadows of Cleansing Iron upon an unsuspecting world. Where the aforementioned demo was a noisy, brash and decent if ultimately a bit forgettable 8 minutes of madness, this full length sees a thorough refinement in everything – song writing, atmosphere, production and instrumentation and it’s a blistering work of death-doom metal with plenty of black metal atmosphere. Vesicant take their name from the group of chemical weapons that includes the deadly mustard gas used to horrifying effect in the first world war, and their music is suitably corrosive, blistering and caustic.
If one wanted to be overly simplistic one could put the roots of Vesicant’s music as a blend of the death-doom sounds of Australia’s Disembowelment and the cavernous sound of US brutal-death metal group Incantation. The dark, melancholic and depressive atmosphere of the former, combined with the dank wall of sound approach of the latter are certainly present in the music presented on Shadows of Cleansing Iron but there’s a lot more to it than that. For one thing Vesicant never relent on the intensity as Disembowelment did during the melodic breaks on the seminal Transcendence into The Peripheral, in fact they don’t go in for a lot of melody at all, it’s a fast and corrosive sea of churning guitar notes flinging themselves against the cavernous walls of the production, occasionally with the seas calming slightly with haunting, dark and eerie dissonant chords crashing slowly but powerfully against the edge.
But despite their propensities for walls of sound, the production is by no means a mess, neither the musicianship sloppy. The riffs in Dismal Oubilette are fast and technical, not just a few short tremolo picked riffs, but a clever and considered carefully manufactured assault, alongwith some ridiculously fast blastbeats with a monolithically heavy sound pounding down uncomfortably on your grey matter. When the drums go into this repetitive assault it’s absolutely barbaric. The bass rumbles ferociously with more emphasis on tone than any melody, with the power and intensity of an earthquake, and the incomprehensible vocals are your standard fare for this kind of music, incomprehensible rasping howls are mixed in among low guttural roars sounding more beast than man, not overly ferocious, as if the hounds of Hades were growling rather than barking. It does fit the music well without being anything special.
The slow doomy sections on each of the songs, are great, especially as most bands use them as something of a breather from the fast and caustic parts – here the dissonant haunting riffs and claustrophobic guitar sound, with the chords ringing out and echoing around sound utterly misanthropic, bleak and devoid of all light, a different kind of assault on the senses from the clattering walls of sound during the rest of the songs. In terms of songs it’s hard to pick a favourite here, whether the eerie tremolo picked melody on Carnage Ascended leading into some of the most blunt and clattering assaults on the album, the oceanic gloom in the middle of Enceladus, the dark atmospheres of Blood Miller, or the migraine inducing causticness of the closer Excoriation (surely a Disembowelment reference) every track is as bleak as it is brutal.
Shadows of Cleansing Iron is equal parts bleak and brutal in an unrelenting and despairing trip through dark caverns and murky churning seastorms. Oceanically heavy and claustrophobic it’s almost a challenge to listen to all the way through but for an utter assault on the senses Vesicant have released a truly formidable debut effort.