Vesicant unravel war horrors, torments of battlefield death on ‘Shadows of Cleansing Iron’

It’s perverse to think about how many supremely gifted people have poured their abilities into creating things that ultimately go to kill and maim. While also a deterrent, weapons of war have produced some of the most infamous means for killing other humans, from bombs to weaponized pathogens to blistering agents that cause hellish pain.

New Zealand death metal maulers Vesicant take their name from chemical weapons employed during World War I, specifically, and their debut record “Shadows of Cleansing Iron” zeroes in on the pain and suffering sustained by those who went to fight battles for their countries. They are insistent that their means are not to glorify war in any way, but to convey the torment and pain suffered and channel that into their music. They crush that nail right on the head on these seven songs, as the music is oppressive and violent, making you feel trapped on a battlefield from which you cannot escape. The band—Profanum (guitars/vocals), Mordance (drums/vocals)—also takes inspiration from many of the novels written about the WW 1 era, which mixes in ideals of heroism and immortality soldiers would feel amid battle, as well as the pure annihilation involved and the results of sacrifice.

“Blood Miller” opens the record with heavy crushing and monstrous growls, with nasty group shouts erupting and everything turning into a doom tunnel. A mesmerizing haze rolls over the scene, but then huge roars rolls out, and everything ends in smothering punishment. “Shadow of Death” has noise hanging in the air and guitars beginning to catch fire before the cut is served to a death furnace. Furious growls team up with a hammering pace, as screams jab behind the lead vocal lines. Later, the song slows to a dizzying pace before the song comes to a sickening end. “Dismal Oubliette” starts amid thunderstorming chaos, as hellish growls and splattering playing spit blood and bone. The punishment makes the room spin, and then the song starts to bore a giant hole in the earth before fading away.

“Uncoiled Desolator” has vocals that engorge on blood, while the drums destroy and turn everything to dust. The song utterly clobbers, coming to a fiery, sinister finish. “Enceladus” is the second-longest track at 7:01, and it goes from noise buzz to battering bodies in no time. The track is less concerned with speed and more reliant on calculated thrashing, which it serves generously. Later on, the intensity picks back up again, deranged growls spill, and the heat is turned up high enough to leave a mountain of ash. “Carnage Ascended” cascades fire before the band unleashes a savage beating. Infernal growls mix with pure devastation, as pain is injected, and the song settles into its piledriving pace. Doom clouds settle later, darkening skies as the song slips away. Closer “Excoriation” begins with the sounds of war and suffering before this 7:19-long cut truly catches fire. Furious growls and a tempo that grinds away let loose, with the band destroying everything in its wake. Soloing takes off and scorches flesh, while the band ramps up a final surge that devastates to the end.

Here in America, many people tend to celebrate war and its aftermath, but bands such as Vesicant deliver a sobering reminder of the actual toll paid by those who battled and died. “Shadows of Cleansing Iron” is a violent, thunderous record that will impact you mentally and physically and force you to look hell in the eyes. It’s a cycle humanity seems insistent on repeating over and over until it’s too late for anything to survive.

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