War. Whether for profit, liberation, or for sheer annihilation of your enemies, many bands have scoured the various battles and wars throughout the ages for musical and lyrical inspiration. World War I in particular remains a fertile ground for a variety of metal bands, with depictions of trenches and chemical warfare highlighted in gruesome, vivid detail. New Zealand’s Vesicant, their name derived from the blistering after-effects of mustard gas, attempt to weave their own horrific tales of one of the ugliest wars in history with their debut album, Shadows of Cleansing Blood. Does the Wellington duo succeed in their attempt for honor, valor, and pride? Or is this best tossed away like a grenade without a pin?

As I hinted above, there’s more than a bit of Bolt Thrower in the construction of the songs, especially when it comes to the foreboding atmosphere of their earlier works. Opener “Blood Miller” lurches at a snails pace, despite guitarist/bassist/vocalist Profanum’s penchant for tremolo-riffing in Drop-Q tuning. His subterranean guttural growls thicken the fog and misery considerably, especially in sharp contrast to drummer/vocalist Mordance’s almost shout-like mid-range yells. Between the two vocal styles, you develop a feeling of dread and chaos that works well in the band’s favor in terms of creating a dense, hopeless atmosphere. That sickening, disgusting, “I’m gonna die a horrific death and there ain’t shit I can do about it” feeling of despair and loss permeates throughout this song and the majority of Shadows.

But here lies the rub: Shadows of Cleansing Iron lacks a solid foundation. In other words, the album pummels, grinds, incinerates, chemically exfoliates, blisters, peels, and pulverizes without fluid structure or hooks. Profanum relies on tremolo to the point of incoherency, and when you can make out a riff, like the dreary melody near the end of “Enceladus,” it still doesn’t feel engaging. To be fair, Mordance also sounds a bit sloppy during parts of songs, such as near the end of “Blood Miller” when it sounds like his snare hit is a half-second too soon. Bands like Inquisition succeed in leveling people’s eardrums because, as a two-piece, they have to be tight and concise. When literally half of your band is dragging, it’s noticeable right away.

What’s also noticeable is how bad this sounds on a production level. Plainly put, this is one of the most painful mixes I’ve had the displeasure of hearing. When my DR reader kicked back the score below, I shook my head in disbelief, as this sounds far more atrocious. You can’t make out any bass, the guitars are overly distorted and compressed, and you can barely hear the bass drums. Worse than that, though, when the band decides to blast away, like on closer “Excoriation,” you’re going to need some maximum strength Excedrin just to make it through to the end. When I’m suffering from a migraine at a ridiculously low volume, there’s something horribly wrong. Hearing this just once proved to be a painful experience, but listening to it twice a day just to find something to grasp onto as a positive is bordering on the suicidal.

While I admire the fact that Vesicant matched their subject matter with equal ferocity, I can’t recommend Shadows of Cleansing Iron unless you need yet another interpretation of World War I, and if you do, there are far better bands and albums to reach for. Shadows succeeds mostly in avoiding hooks and inducing the mother of all migraines. You are best to leave this in the trenches.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: vesicantcult.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Vesicant
Releases Worldwide: July 14th, 2017

  • Eldritch Elitist

    First Eva Can’t, and now Vesicant? Damn, we’re an oppressive bunch.

    Also, I would’ve bet a month’s salary that this was a Mark Z review based on the cover art.

    • It does fairly scream M of Z.

    • welyyt

      It makes you wish someone actually could.

    • ssorg

      Well according to D666 Tamam shud
      I’ll get me coat

    • Mark Z

      Guess everybody’s pegging me as the blackened death guy after that Weregoat review

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      And here I thought we were a society of enablers.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I saw people raving about this in the forum and when I sampled it, it sounded pretty fucking awesome. I’m going to listen to the full album and I’ll get back to you.

    • Thatguy

      Yeah. I dipped into this and liked it. I will have closer listen, but there is no way this is a 1.0 for me.

      • Thatguy

        I still like it.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      Here are my first impressions: On my earbuds, the album sounds seriously grim. I can tell the production is fucked but by the sounds of it, it was deliberate and I happen to think it adds to the overall atmosphere. There are some tracks here that work really fucking well, namely track 2 and the closer. A lot of the album can get lost in the shuffle, though. For this kind of album, even though it’s only 40 mins long, I think they could have cut a bit off the middle. In the end, I see nothing seriously wrong with this record at a first glance. I’d give it a solid 3 but I recommend you listen to it and decide for yourself.

      • Westpaceagle

        Well said. Completely agree but to each his own

  • Nathan McCain

    This and the new Heresiarch seem to have a very similar aesthetic, but the production woes just sink this one instantly. The cymbals sound like Rice Krispies, and the bass drum is gone. Brutal in the worst way.

  • Westpaceagle

    Whole heartedly disagree with a 1.0 for this but that’s why they pay the big bucks at AMG. There is an aesthetic and a style that some of us love, and these guys do it well, shortcomings aside. Not AoTY material, but certainly dark, heavy, forboding and menacing as fvck. Some metal heads still look for these qualities over the jazz-fusion proggy man-bun wankery bullshit that has been slowly taking over AMG.

    …and now I’m that trve cvlt asshole complaining about ratings and RoTM in the forum! I feel like there is no going back now.

    • I think AMG is safe from becoming a proggy man-bun destination trip. Most of us like raw, nasty death and black stuff when done well.

      That said, complain away, you cvlt asshole you.

      • Westpaceagle

        Let’s NOT forget, that, um, keeping wildlife, um, as you know, domestic…that ain’t legal either dude

        I would have also mentioned that the cover rips off Wode and the logo rips off Teitanblood. But that’s probably the biggest offense of an otherwise respectably unremarkable DM platter who’s blackened heart is in the right place.

        1.0 = “embarrassing” and this is not that!

        • Drew Music

          “…an otherwise respectably unremarkable DM platter (whose) blackened heart is in the right place.”
          I like that, and I pretty much agree. The production is pretty bad, but the music itself is not. Nothing standout, but 1.0 does seem a tad harsh.

          • Westpaceagle

            Fixed it thanks! And at least my lowly favorites like Ascended Dead and Contaminated broke 2.0. Did AMG review the new a Death Fortress? Going to check. Shirley that’s some blackened death we can rally around!

          • Nathan McCain

            Triumph of the Undying is HUGE. Strikes me like a more concise At the Heart of Winter, has that same austere beauty and riff quality. I heard many prefer the previous album, what are your thoughts?

          • Westpaceagle

            I did not get into their first one, second one put them on my radar, and this new one is killer. I think they have found their sound and are killing it. Definitely a band to watch and if they keep up the pace of 1 album per year then even better!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I wouldn’t say the production is pretty bad, I would say it’s par for the course. Which means, yes, it’s bad, but what were you expecting? It’s not like they are going to hire Mutt Lange to produce this, right? This ugly sound fits this ugly music.

      • Eli Valcik

        Amen t0 that brvther we need to keep it trve and klassic, I saw a gvy with a Di0 backpatch today and I alm0st hvgged him because he gets it. Lets get more l0vers of the old school metal/BM/DM vp in this piece.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Also, you should have spelled it as “kvlt” instead of “cvlt”.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    I would like this more, if I were into crappy music.

  • Absolomb

    I understand the production is terrible but this doesn’t scream 1.0 to me.
    The music in itself is actually enjoyable and for the style their playing and the sound their going for they didn’t do all that much wrong.
    But it’s all opinions of course.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Hey Grymm! Seeing how you described World War I as “one of the ugliest wars in history” made me wonder which war you think is the prettiest… ;)

    • Ghio

      I bet it’s the Emu War…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Thanks for bringing such… unique? historic episode to my knowledge! I wonder if the guys in Sabaton ever heard about it…

      • Nukenado

        I was going to make a joke about China’s Four Pests Campaign, but then I remembered the historical background (one of Modern China’s most ugly periods), and now I’m just sad.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          The more I read this website and it’s comment section, the more cultured I become.

    • Morbidly Obese Angel

      I’ve heard the scenery in Vietnam is quite pretty

      • Come for the napalm, stay for the prostitu… I mean, scenery.

    • Nukenado

      To me, WWI had some of the most ugly scenes, and some of the most beautiful scenes. The Christmas Truce is one of humanity’s greatest acheivements IMO.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Now I am 100% sure you’re going to love Sabaton’s “Heroes”!

        • Nukenado

          Wishlist compromised.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This and Weregoat make for great companion albums. Because both of them are the same kind of awesome and ugly at the same time.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This is not as bad as you make it seem Grymm… in fact it’s pretty good.

  • The embedded track is clipping like nothing I’ve ever heard before, holy crap this is going to blow my speakers (and not in a good, Manowar “Blow Your Speakers” kind of sense). Of course, this isn’t my preferred genre, but even taking that into consideration the song quality is so poor. It may have been preferable to be battling in the trenches for this listener.

  • Deadacolyte

    If you don’t understand this type of music why you even review it?

    • GardensTale

      I don’t always listen to promos before committing to them. It’s a big list, sometimes you just gotta throw a dart and hope for the best.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    When it comes to albums with a World War I theme, I always think of Will of the Ancients’ To Our Glorious Dead. Though I find the zombie soldier cover art disrespectful, it’s a good album (as our good Grymm pointed out in his review). Love the banshee scream that starts off Shield of Stone.

    • Drew Music

      God Dethroned reign supreme there in my book.
      Passiondale is just too fuckin good.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I’m not familiar with that one, but I will be soon. Thanks.

        • Drew Music

          Oh damn, you’ve been missing out! “No Survivors” is probably my favorite track there, but the whole album’s pretty sweet. Enjoy!

  • Drew Music

    Day 2 of the invasion: the ads are still here, and their presence is taking its toll. I wade through promises of a flat belly and financial security, an endless sea of lies. I report every one of these vultures in an attempt to banish them to the abyss, but for every ad successfully reported another pops up, promising the realization of dreams and discounts on items my heart is set on. Not content to merely assault the eyes, the bastards have gone so far as to halt playback of my music whilst I dwell within their area of control. This horror must not, cannot continue.
    It will not continue.

    • Nukenado

      You will succumb to the ads. You will fight, and you will fall. Resignation will come after the realization that all is futile, and your desperate efforts to stem the tide of mass marketing that cannot be stopped is slinging a pebble against a tank.

      It can continue. It will continue. The invasion of the comments section will continue. And while you’re at it, perish all thoughts of any of these ads being enticing or clever. The only view you will get is that of clickbait titles that are too low even for PornHub. Algorithms will not be used. There will be no adjusting to your taste, no attempt to please or pander.

      Only to annoy.

      • Drew Music

        Ulcerate, is that you?

        • Just wanted to let you guys know that I’m sprucing up a new place or upgrading an old one. I’m paying with confidence whenever I shop for my home with PayPal.

          • Drew Music

            KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT!!!

        • Nukenado

          Adspell Omega, actually.

  • IamDBR

    Judging by the embedded track this doesn’t sound bad at all but I can see how the production can be a turn off. Need to give this more time.

  • Eli Valcik

    At least the cover art is pretty cool.

  • Dániel Arató

    “…with their debut album, Shadows of Cleansing _Blood_”
    Nope. :)

  • Jeebuz

    Hey dummy, you’re reviewing mps’s of course they sound like crap,lmfao!!!