Through the Darkest Days – Exclusive interview with Vesicarum

Vesicarum (Left to right): Martin Shipton (Guitar), Glynn Neve (Vocals), Donal McGee (Drums).

Kent death metal outfit, Vesicarum, released one of the grittiest records of 2021, mixing down-tuned grooves with personal commentaries on mental illness and the darkest of suicidal thoughts. Those used to gore and violence will be in for a shock when they hear Glynn Neve take to the microphone. This is a man baring his soul like a person in conversation with a therapist.

Vesicarum started as Neve’s solo project in 2016 but evolved into a five-piece in 2018 and is now a slimmed-down trio of Neve on vocals, Martin Shipton on guitar and Donal McGee on drums. One listen to the riffs on the band’s debut, Place of Anarchy, will transport you to the transitional 1992-93 period when Obituary and Sepultura were figuring out how to insert groove into their death metal leanings. Guest appearances from James Dawson of Brighton metalcore heroes, Bleed Again, and Hertfordshire metal stalwart, Joe Lydon, only add to the power, as does a collaboration with the mighty Demonstealer (Sahil Makhija) on closing track, ‘Am I to Blame’.

Like many contemporary death metal bands, Vesicarum are conscious that the genre has no need to go down the rabbit hole of inhumane speed and impossible blast beats to stay relevant. You’ll hear shades of deathcore and groove metal in the mix, but the Kent boys care little about genre tags. Place of Anarchy is a punch in the stomach and a bucket of cold water in your face with a story to tell. Seldom has an aggressive metal record been so candid about individual struggles and so easy to follow thanks to Neve’s harsh voice technique, which belies a clear enunciation underneath the malevolence.

We spoke to Glynn Neve and Donal McGee to find out more about their writing and recording experience and the specific environmental factors that influenced Place of Anarchy

Above: Glynn Neve recording vocals in the studio.

Let’s start with the candid lyrics on your debut album, Place of Anarchy. The neo-suicidal stanzas are shocking in their honesty and gut-wrenching in their delivery. How fragile was the author of these lyrics before Covid-19 came along to exacerbate things even further?

Glynn Neve (Vocalist): I have suffered with mental health for most of my life. I have tried many different medications, seen specialists, had counselling to try and make me more stable. Covid definitely hasn’t helped my situation. In fact, I’ve really suffered, as have a lot of people during these strange times.

Real life experiences and personal circumstances were clearly an inspiration on the lyrics, but what were your musical influences on this album?

Glynn and Donal McGee (Drums): Sepultura (Chaos A.D.), the new Slipknot album. Entombed, Ingested, Kataklysm. A few deathcore/metalcore bands like Thy Art Is Murder and Carnifex.

The song, ‘Through the Darkest Days’, is unlike anything from contemporary death metal and feels almost like a narrative mood piece with a gritty social reality. Tell us about the creation of this song and what musical vision you had in mind when you penned the lyrics.

Glynn: Yes, it isn’t your standard death metal song, but I wanted to do a powerful, emotional, clean song about my experiences as a single father with two very young children. I also wanted to show that I can do more than just growl, and this track gave me the perfect opportunity, whilst Donal was wanting to have a track where we could play with the dynamics of a song. During a zoom call one evening Martin came up with the track, and the three of us thought it sounded great. It was a huge risk to put this on the album, but it I think has paid off. We have had a really positive reaction to the song.

Your music is unusual for a death metal band in that no blast beats permeate through your sound. Why is that?

Donal: Fundamentally, I felt the songs didn’t ask for it, but obviously it’s hard to beat a blast beat through the skull. So, if Martin hits me up with a 200+ bpm of a song or idea, I will of course beat it out.

Question for Glynn: How different is your music now compared to when you started it as a solo project in 2016?

Glynn: My vocals have come on massively since the Necro Seizure days (back when Vesicarum was my solo project), not only in how they sound but also my vocal range. The Vesicarum songs aren’t as symphonic; the tracks have a more complicated structure and a different guitar tone.

Which is your favourite song on Place of Anarchy and why?

Glynn: Ah, that’s a question for both of us. Donal’s favourite is ‘The Pain I Feel’ – “The three verses to me all have a different feel and that breakdown!” 

Donal: Glynn’s favourite has to be ‘Rightfully Mine’ – “I love the two different styles of vocals and the contrast. The way Richard Kane’s vocals go over the chorus are brutal.”

Your dual guitar parts are as intricate as Paradise Lost and as effective as Obituary. But how difficult will it be to execute the studio sound on a live stage as a three-piece?

Glynn: We wrote the album as a three-piece, but we have recently had two new members join us – it hasn’t been announced yet as we wanted to get the album out before announcing our new members. We always intended to be a five-piece band due to the guitar melodies and how complex the tracks are. There’s no way we could perform our new songs as a three piece.

Let’s discuss the title track of the album. What reaction did you get from friends and family when they heard the main message of “I wish I was dead” ringing through their headphones?

Glynn: To be 100% honest, other than my wife and two children (who are aware of my mental issues and my constant struggles), none of family are really interested in my music and its content. They don’t understand why I listen to such extreme music.

Your album has four guest contributions, including the mighty Demonstealer from India. Tell us how this collaboration came about.

Glynn: We are all huge fans of Demonstealer and the work he has done. We asked our record label if they could get in contact with him and see if he was interested in featuring on one of our songs. He messaged back saying he was very keen. We are really pleased to have had him on the album and how the song came out – and as they say, “the rest is history.”

What have you learned from the Covid-19 lockdown that makes you tighter as a band?

Glynn and Donal: Covid made things very difficult when it came to writing the album. Luckily, we had started writing it before the second lockdown came. Our constant Zoom calls as a band brought a new way of creating music – we all had ideas, it was just a case of getting them down. It was challenging because normally we can see each other’s ideas and jam them out. Due to not being able to rehearse, Martin dropped off an electric drum kit to Donal the day before the first lockdown was announced. It created opportunity to play every day without aggravating any neighbours. Covid has brought us more together. During the lockdowns we were able to talk to each other more than we would normally and were able to help each other through the hard times.

Final question: How do you envisage the Vesicarum sound evolving in the future?

Glynn: We are evolving as a band and we’re constantly writing new music. With the two new members joining us, and they can bring new elements and their ideas to the song writing. We’re back rehearsing now, which is awesome, and the new members are gelling well with the three of us.

*** Vesicarum released Place of Anarchy via One Eyed Toad records on 18 June 2021. You can read the original SBR review here. ***