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Esoteric return yet again with a 2 disc, 90 minute slab of gut-churning, masterfully executed apocalyptic funeral doom metal. The band has never disappointed since their inception, and Paragon of Dissonance continues the trend.
To say that Esoteric has always been hard to get into, even for many devoted metal fans, is an under-statement. Their first two albums, Epistemological Despondency and The Pernicious Enigma, solidified the band as a stark reminder that death, in its many grimy forms, is an inevitability. With their discordant, other-worldly riffs to Greg Chandler's monstrous vocal approach, and an overall atmosphere of dread, the band arose in my books as the best form of doom metal one can experience, provided one has the courage to sit through a double-disc, mentally crippling affair. Their later albums, Metamorphogenesis, Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum and The Maniacal Vale only cemented that foundation, and this is where Paragon of Dissonance comes in, sounding like a mixture of their older, more rawer efforts, and the later albums, which featured more spacey, incredibly surreal soundscapes that force you to question your place in this world.
Paragon of Dissonance features the same mind-blowing, multi-layered funeral doom metal attack the band is known and renowned for, but with an added element of accessibility. Most of it is due to the production, I believe, as the down-right maniacal production of the last few albums is done away with, replacing with a cleaner, more focused sound. None of this takes away from the album's onslaught, as the opening track, Abandonment, proves. In typical Esoteric fashion, the song, builds up and progresses to a mind-melting crescendo, with Chandler in tip-top form as usual, and the atmosphere of despair and misery being put to good use by the incredibly slow guitar and drum work. The band takes a break in the second and third songs, namely Loss of Will and Cipher, to give the listeners more of what made the intro to 'Blood of the Eyes' from Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum so memorable. Slow, incredibly crushing, yet spacey and desolate soundscapes.
The highlight of the album, for me personally, is the second track off of disc 2, namely Disconsolate. This, by far, has to be the best song the band has ever written. The intro alone, with some incredibly melancholic keyboards and guitar melodies being played, is worth the price of the album. The middle section satisfies the fans of the older efforts, while the intro and the last few minutes, featuring beautiful soloing, would highly satisfy those looking for more of an ethereal attack on their sense. This song shows that Esoteric are masters at what they do, and stand untouchable in that department. If the listener is not moved by the various shifts in mood in Disconsolate, then serious doubts as to the existence of the listener's pulse should be in order.
In the end, if you're looking for massively crushing funeral doom, played by masters at the top of their game, then buy the album. Just be prepared for 90 minutes of extreme desolation and suffering, something very few bands, in the same genre, achieve. This is nothing short of perfection in every sense of the word.
Highly, highly recommended.
This is, however, very skillfully executed music in a lavish rock/metal band outfit, almost orchestral, playing endless tracks with layers upon layers of reverbing guitar strings, some synthesizers, echoes, and growls and screeches from the abyss. It all comes wrapped in excellent, clear production.
What makes one come back to Esoteric time after time, with each new album? Putting aside that silly classification funeral doom, which is nonsense, since Esoteric occupies a niche of its own, and it is not even extreme in a metallic sense.
Metal-wise, this is rather unimpressive, it is more like a mirror reflecting deranged incarnations of some early Pink Floyd (and other rock bands) now broken into smithereens, bordered by a frame of some heavy downstroke riffs, also broken.
Musical ideas, some brilliant, come and go in endless waves, layered upon each other, but hardly connected, yet held together by some plan. Not a plan of musical genius, mind you, but a very effective plan nonetheless, maybe the plan is to keep it flowing nicely, to inject some surprises only just to avoid predictability and boredom. But these are just technical aspects and would not do justice to the work as a whole.
Unlike the title suggests, the music is not dissonant. Spatially it is very consonant, often harmonic, sometimes mellow. If at all, it is the time domain in which the dissonance is executed. This is even the most listenable of Esoteric's albums so far, some tracks like Cipher could almost pass off for a radio/TV crowd.
The music flows as if it has all the time of the world to endlessly bemoan loss, valuelessness, inner disunity and conflict. There is a pervert sense of brokenness at work in the composition, and this is probably what entices the listener. It uses complex harmonic and rhythmic arrangements to build tension, only for these delicate, admirable sculptures to be crushed, but not with a 'hammer' of metal riffs (which would be silly), but rather by diverting the attention to melodic progressions that are just too odd and painful to follow in a moment of grandeur. You are taken by the scruff of the neck and dragged back over to the abyss again and again, just so you don't forget how meaningless it all was.
Maybe it's genius after all. I just gave it an ultra-low score just in case someone thought this would be of any relevance.
It's always a major event when Esoteric release yet another album for they do so infrequently and each succeeding full-length seems a more epic, doomy and complex juggernaut than its predecessor. The sound is clear, majestic and immersive: listeners can't help but be swept up in the thick lumbering flow of gravelly guitar, screeching vocals and furious percussion. Lyrics speak of detachment and isolation from the human race, itself adrift in existential despair, and the accompanying madness that can drive a person to the edge of death, perhaps through suicide. The album's artwork looks a delirious nightmare of twisting, morphing cellular forms through which strange invisible beings insinuate themselves in order to take over the host's mind and form a perverse mirror of one's being, all delivered in a soft but sinister murky grey- purple.
Most tracks on the double set are long with the shortest piece clocking in at over 7 minutes. On the first disc, opener "Abandonment" leads the way in a very business-like manner, chugging along and bounding from sorrowful, quiet passages to bursts of unbridled aggression: a very dense and complicated world in itself. At 15 minutes, if the song were a little longer, it could have been an album in itself. Second track "Loss of Will" is sure to be a surprise for Esoteric fans: it's a very beautiful and crystal-clear Gothic piece of cut-glass piano and sharp snare drum with guitar hanging back respectfully in the background. Vocals have a sculpted feel with all the reverb covering them. The track is quite repetitive but never sounds boring, perhaps because of the drama and emotion streaming forth in the slow and emphatic rhythms and the gritty voices. "Cipher" is fairly laid-back compared to what's gone before and can be stodgy as it trudges through pessimistic lyrics of soulless robot human society with its lack of meaningful connections among people. The coda is a marvel of withering noise and wobbly space drone.
The three tracks on the second disc are long and winding epic journeys into inner space with as much space ambience and tricky synth space effects as there is intensely emotional lumbering depressive doom. "Aberration" reaches heights of heart-rending melodramatic opera with an emphatic though surprisingly light guitars-n-drums foundation over which multiple voices howl and scream in anger and agony. Likewise "Disconsolate" fairly drools with melancholy in its piano lines and cold atmospheric synth wash. It develops into a more layered if trudging opus of wiggly guitar melody and grand sweeping riffs.
"A Torrent of Ills" is very much a summation both musically and thematically of what has gone before: the music plunges into abysses of black despair and reaches for peaks of emotional intensity and drama, the lyrics posit the protagonist on the edge between life and purpose on one hand, and death and chaos on the other.
The album can be an exhausting experience to sit through but the tracks lend themselves readily to being heard in isolation. First-timers might find breaking up the album into listenable parts a help before listening to the entire set all the way from start to finish as it should be heard. The album isn't a huge musical leap from "The Maniacal Vale" although I think there is an psychedelic space influence on "Paragon of Dissonance" that was absent on the earlier recording. It is a very rich and immersive sonic world that swallows up listeners and I rather think people who are labouring under depression should hear this album; it may help soothe if not relieve feelings of hopelessness and despair and help them know that others have had similar experiences of unending blackness.
Esoteric are back and presenting their newest album, Paragon Of Dissonance. Once again the British band goes for a double disc format, the same that brought them so much praise in the past. Their new album is a dark and monstrous ride into the deepest corners of the mind and a challenging experience to undertake.
I’ve been trying to start listening to Esoteric for over a year now as I’m a fan of doom in general, and in particular the funeral doom variant since a couple of years back. But when you have a band whose most recommended album is a two disc behemoth with nine songs and two hours long, you get to think twice and sometimes more before you start listening to them. As such I’ve been postponing listening to The Pernicious Enigma for a while now. The arrival of their newest album has infused me with a will to finally give the band a serious chance, and with such a tempestuous Autumn as it is now I can only say that the timing is quite appropriate.
This is one of those genres where I present some difficulty writing about; at least in technical and musical terms since funeral doom is renowned for its slowness and repetitiveness. It’s easier to approach and write about this genre by depicting its imagery and the emotions it brings to the listener. Personally I find it to be a very interesting sub-genre, despite being one of the hardest forms of music to enjoy and appreciate, and as most doom it’s a very moody form of music. Nevertheless there are points in life where I absolutely adore indulging myself in the hypnotic rhythms and darkened atmosphere of such albums. Esoteric are one of the biggest names on the scene and one of the precursors of it, together with other names like Evoken or Skepticism. The first rooted themselves in the dark and asphyxiating lines of Winter, evolving into a unique entity, while the second rose like a phoenix after the demise of underground legends Thergothon, transforming themselves in one of the most renowned bands of the genre and leaders of the Finnish doom scene.
Esoteric on the other hand are rooted in the British doom scene, known for its melodic and sometimes more romantic approach to the genre. This can be witnessed throughout this entire album as it sounds very British. Indicative moments of this can be found from the beginning of the album, with its 14 minute monstrous opener “Abandonment”, which is one of the most daunting pieces of music I’ve hear in a while, filled with lavishing guitar work and a main riff that’s absolutely destructive. The weight of the drums is so much that you feel like you’re going to cave in to them, when all of a sudden the song shifts into an ambient clean section near the 7 minute mark, with just the guitar holding off the melody. This section reminds me a lot of the latest Ahab album in its melodic approach and the build up that begins to take form is nothing short of extraordinary, leaving you holding on until the last moment where it just explodes into its emotional and brutal apex. I can seriously reaffirm that with an opener like this Paragon Of Dissonance has to be heard!
The British show continues with the funereal march that opens and leads along the next song “Loss Of Will”, one of the two smaller tracks here together with “Cipher”. These two avert a bit from the typical wall of sound present on the longer songs and instead prefer to hit the listener with a more direct and pungent approach, with the later presenting us again with some flashy guitar work and the horrifying vocal work of Greg Chandler. What follows afterwards is a seamless piece of music divided into four acts, as there is still more than one hour left on this album. The awesome “Non Being” starts this doom opera by stealing the show with its spacey distorted guitars that suddenly burst into this amazing lead that finally calls the shadows back to encompass all existence. This is one of the highlights on the album which together with the opener “Abandonment” and “Disconsolate” from the second disc form a power trio of songs that will leave any doom fan in awe.
The band really excels on the longer tracks and the first disc ends up serving as the perfect appetizer for the main course and real meal that is the second disc. This is where Esoteric show their true genius and where I end up drowning within the immenseness that is their music. This second disc melds itself with the aforementioned “Non Being” into one giant rollercoaster through the darkest reaches of your imagination, leaving you nothing short of emotionally and physically drained. The production really helps the band to achieve their goal here as it is simply perfect. I wouldn’t change anything as every drum struck is felt as a direct hit on your soul, the lower end is rich with fullness and the guitars have a tone that’s incredible. Always rich in caressing melodies as much as in claustrophobic riffs, they explode with every build up and every lead presented here.
Paragon Of Dissonance is literally another gigantic effort by the band, spanning over two discs and 94 minutes of funeral dirges and slowed to a crawl, British-style death/doom. The atmosphere is rich and at points totally overwhelming, leaving you on an astral path to the darkest reaches of your imagination, or just wandering around through what was, is and will be your life. This is much more than a doom album, this is an amazing experience that isn’t for the faint hearted as such ride would prove too overwhelming for them. It’s a beautiful yet haunting piece of art in musical form that touches you in all the right places and screams at you for forgiveness, an emotional steamroller that tramples your every mundane thought and brings you down into a state of catatonic flirtation with your inner demons. Scary at points but imbued with such beauty that it’s hard to let go, this is an album that glues itself and melds into your soul and as such becomes a part of who you are. This is a true work of art and a serious contender for album of the year. Welcome Esoteric, I’ve been longing for you…
Originally written for and posted at Riff Magazine