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Esoteric escaped my attention way back in the early 1990s when I was listening to various British metal bands like Godflesh, Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and a fair few others: these bands were major league stars to my tiny little mind then. The extreme and sometimes thoughtful approach of those bands is present on this fourth album by the Birmingham-based band so I don't know why Esoteric should have passed me by. No matter - I caught up with these guys in the end.
Here on "Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum" is slow and very deep, sometimes very painful and agonising doom metal that features a droning rhythm, vocals influenced as much by death metal as by doom metal, and a clear production which adds a melancholy Gothic majesty to the music. The style is minimal: guitar riffs draw out the abrasive guitar tones and twist and turn in different directions which often involve changes of key. There are no obvious melodies and there is no instrumental soloing. The atmosphere is very bleak and desolate and the singing is either angry or anguished and the lyrics speak of existential dread and self-loathing.
The music on offer may not be very original but what Esoteric bring to it is depth of emotion and strong atmosphere. The fourth track in particular is an ambient string of repetitive sound washes, harsh and echoing, that points to a more moody and drone-laden direction. The darkness on the album is cavernous, dense and all-enveloping and listeners may feel overwhelmed by the epic nature of the music. Esoteric might not be the most vibrant band and seem content to mine their particular brand of dark depressive minimal metal but they're not a bunch who can be dismissed lightly.
An original version of this review appeared in Issue 13 (year 2005) of The Sound Projector. This issue is no longer in print.
(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)
1999 saw the release of a notably cleaner sounding tone in Esoteric's music in the form of Metamorphogenesis. Five years afterwards, these guys issue in another short album (by Esoteric standards). The sound is even cleaner on this offering titled Subconscious Dissolution Into the Continuum, and the Esoteric atmosphere gets even weirder with it. Unfortunately, I also feel that this is their weakest incarnation yet.
"Morphia"'s intro has everything that Esoteric has had before. Alien sounding rhythm guitar and a lead guitar eventually melting into some heavier, plodding riffs. It feels, however, when the vocals start and lead guitar goes away that the song goes on for an eternity (until about the four minute mark) of a riff that's not as creative as the Esoteric I'm used to. The four minute mark variation only jumps back to the notes that were present in the intro. 6:36 does introduce a newer variation to break this monotony, thankfully. The lead guitar and distorted ambiance that I like in Esoteric kicks in and sticks around for about two and a half minutes before the major atmosphere fades away again. The most annoying aspect of the song is that the tempo doesn't vary and the atmospheric aspects of the lead guitar and keyboards aren't around long enough to leave a lasting effect.
"The Blood of the Eyes" starts off with a much lighter sounding tone provided by lead guitar, keyboard, and rhythm guitar. The light sounding rhythm guitar turns into heavy riffs while the rest of the light sounding aspects continue onward. Already, this is much better than "Morphia". Finally, after four minutes, the song grows darker with the lead guitar disappearing. The keyboard seems to stay around to layer the atmosphere a little better. About a minute later, it shifts back to the lighter sounding tone with the lead guitar returning. This almost feels like a Skepticism song. At the 7:34 mark, the tempo switches up to a slightly faster pace and the tone growing darker until 9:34 where the riffs break into chugging going on for a minute. Then grows slow and darker to finish up the song.
"'Tis but a fucking grey day for me now." I'm sorry, but that first line to the song "Grey Day" just cracks me up. The song carries a more sorrowful tone which goes well with the more depressive lyrics. The most dense alien atmosphere is present in this song. It's not light sounding like "The Blood of the Eyes". This sounds much more dark and disturbing, yet spacey and drifting; the ideal area for Esoteric in my book. The lead guitar's presence is well established in the 17 minute duration of the song. But even when it's not around, the song doesn't get boring. The tempo changes a few seconds before the song reaches the ten minute mark when the lead guitar isn't going. I'm not totally sure when it slows down again, but the slow parts of the song contain the most dense atmosphere. Parts of it seem reminiscent to Epistemological Despondency.
So what's left? "Arcane Dissolution" is just a chance reflect on the disturbing passage taken. It's mostly ambient with growling and steady beats of percussion and guitar chords.
So, "Morphia" was mediocre by Esoteric standards, "The Blood of the Eyes" was better, and "Grey Day" was the best of the bunch. Underwhelming when compared Esoteric's more legendary works, but still fine in its own right. And yeah, Greg Chandler is still my hero of doom metal.
Esoteric- a band that's generally claimed as being one of the high points among funeral doom, and indeed, metal (I'd say Esoteric matches Opeth and Tool for rabid fanboys, luckily there's not a lot of them around). Unfortunately, as with many a successful band, it seems that the whole thing of these guys being super intelligent/deep/open minded/whatever has kind of disguised the fact that the music on offer (in this album, at least) is, well, quite boring. To be honest I sometime wonder if Esoteric are aware of these limitations, and simply decided to add some long words to their album titles in the hope of getting this out to more people.
But I digress; to be honest I could care less about what themes or what words Esoteric use- lyrics and the like have to be pretty rank to lessen my enjoyment of an album. Problem is, the music is as overlong and convoluted as the album title. It's not a particularly easy thing to do- managing a slow build, keeping a sense of momentum and forward process over 15 or so minutes. Like many bands out there, Esoteric try valiantly (again, something they have in common with Opeth)- and I'd say that most of their parts on their own, taken out of context are quite good, but it just doesn't gel.
It's odd, really- I should be liking this. I want to like this. Certainly the parts seem to flow well together, and most of the parts- the rather mournful intro of "Blood of The Eyes", the many strange, twisted leads hanging around- on their own are good. It's just that overall the songs don't really go anywhere- there's no real sense of completion upon a song ending, and while Esoteric do change tempos and feel around occasionally- the rather nice death/doom touch around the end of Morphia being a nice example- the end result is still really boring. There's no progress, there's nothing to suggest you're near the end of the song. It's the most grandiose, desparing sense of boredom I've ever got, but at the end of the day I'm still, well, bored, and mostly just thinking "gee the production and synth work there was terrific". It's all been executed so well that it's hard to be too harsh, but despite the passionate growled vocals, the changes in tempo, the effective lovecraftian atmosphere, I'm just sitting here for the 6th or so time, yawning, then putting the first track on again going "Come on, there must be something interesting about this". This album's probably in the dictionary under "less then the sum of it's parts".
Well, there you have it folks. Esoteric: well executed, psychedelic funeral doom that is boring as all hell. Chances are it's good and I'm just a clueless idiot, but regardless I can't see myself listening to this again.
"Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum" is another psychedelic doom metal gem from Esoteric, which can cause hallucinations in the minds of unprepared listeners. This hypnotic album is full of slow tempos, incredibly heavy guitar riffs, heavily distorted bass and disturbing, tortured screams and growling vocals. The overall atmosphere of this record is bleak, hopeless and suffocating. The songs are very long ranging from 10 to 17 minutes each but never fail to catch the listener's attention with their hypnotizing heaviness. The beginning of "The Blood of Eyes" with lovely solo guitar work is jaw-droppingly beautiful. However I still think that this band is not for everyone. Their sophisticated and extremely dark music will never appeal to the general masses, not even in popular metal circles. It's so complex and multi-layered that casual doom metal fans won't understand it. Whilst "Metamorphogenesis" was much more brutal and crashing, "Subconscious..." is more reserved, but still amazing. I'd love to see Esoteric on stage.
Favourite tracks: "Morphia", "The Blood of Eyes"
It's no easy effort for me to write a review about this (or any) album by Esoteric for a music site such as Metal Archives, because, the way I feel it, there's so much more to this assault on the senses than merely music. Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum is a pulsating mass of extremity and emotion - TRUE emotion, not just sad melodies and depressed lyrics - and plodding ever onward it humbles, frightens and manipulates the listener with every thunderous beat, every despairing tone, every heart-wrenched syllable. This is the very essence of despair pressed onto a stylishly packaged disc of iridescent plastic. But maybe that's just me being overdramatic with words.
Still the vehicle for this psychomanipulative slab of leaden despair is music, and if you want to be specific this could best be filed under extreme funeral doom. All the necessary ingredients are there: the guttural growls (a style of vocals I've always found more fitting to doom metal than to death metal), the crushing minimalistic drums and subtle, crystalline melodies which are actually quite gorgeous in places woven through the droning downtuned guitars. Where Esoteric differs from most if not all other bands in this genre, is that it has thrice as dense an atmosphere, actually varied song structures, truly tormented melodies and a great sense of build-up (notice, for example, how in the first minute of opening track Morphia almost unnoticeably flows from a relatively tame and melodic intro into utter funereal madness), plus a certain 'something' I can't quite describe. The vocals are in one word monstrous, and consist of the sickest grunts you might ever hear, sometimes with hysteric black metal screeches layered behind them. Especially where these two vocal styles converge it sounds nothing short of diagnosed insanity. The production is quite clear, bass-heavy but without drowning out the fragile melodicism entirely.
Indeed this is a very intense experience. It's very hard to listen to this album entirely, and quite unpleasant depending on the mindset with which you try out this album. I must say I'm not too fond of the more 'chugging' moments without the melodic second guitar parts or keyboards, but in upholding the oppressive, desperate atmosphere of slowly going insane, it does more than its best. More than once I have started to listen to this album in the dark, but every time I had to turn on a light again at some point because I was actually getting scared. No matter if you like it or not, for a band to be able to build such an intensely desperate, psychomanipulative atmosphere deserves nothing but praise. Not for the feint-hearted.
One definition of the word 'Esoteric' is secret. It is certainly no secret that Esoteric have taken the British funeral doom genre by the hand and taken it down their own set path, putting their own spin on a genre that is viewed by many as lifeless. Not only have Esoteric scaled the heights of the British scene, but are known all over the world for their wave after wave of ethereal sound attacks. Esoteric's reputation is like a monolith. It's like a large block of stone that has become immovable over time and so huge that their name will never be wiped from the history books. Their influence is undoubted and one can see why.
In many ways one could say that Esoteric are a typical funeral doom act. Their sound is typical of any funeral doom band due to the fact that they create soundscapes which act as melancholic segments intricately placed side by side. Where many bands fail is when their individual musicians seemingly compete for status and control over the reigns. Esoteric do not do this. Their music plays side by side. It attacks the listener as one, leaving a frail and fragile human being at the end of it. Esoteric's mammoth guitars create a wall of sound impenetrable by any force. Using three guitarists is an advantage to Esoteric, whereas many other bands might fail to cease the opportunity. Each guitarist inspires the next to create this wall of sound by producing some of the most misanthropic riffs you will ever be likely to hear.
The effect of the guitars is imperative to the atmospheric nature of Esoteric. They explore the realms of soundscapes impeccably well. Emotive and ethereal, they drive on like a stake through the heart of the listener. Penetrating your being and infecting your body with their rhythmic dirges. This is perhaps the most pleasing element of Esoteric. Both in the past and now in the present, Esoteric have always had the ability to amass a sound so beautiful, yet haunting. The use of keys is also a great advantage. The keys possess the ability to be able to express the lyrical themes without the use of any words. They give an eerie feeling of vast space and eternity. The vocals, although nothing incredibly special, convey the lyrical themes effectively. Which ultimately, is all they need to do.
"Such a need to explode.
For this time ticks slowly,
Through this, the greyest of all days."
The lyrics portray my vision of the music almost perfectly. Esoteric's slow, but forceful sound creates a desire in the listener for the music to explode into a rapturous fit of rage, pulling off one stunning riff after another. But time ticks slowly. Esoteric's music is in no rush to go anywhere. It's long drawn out sound is important. It sets the mood. In such an atmospheric genre, this is undeniably an important aspect. Esoteric act as a grey spot in a somewhat lifeless genre. They add depth and quality to the proceedings through solid songwriting and fantastic musicianship.
To get this out of the way - this album is absolutely perfect.
"Morphia" starts with a droning riff, a typically doom metal fare. The song does not change its extremely slow pace during the first eleven minutes. The guitars are crushingly heavy, the drums are plodding, and the vocals are screamed...now this describes the music accurately enough, but it totally fails to convey the actual experience.
First of all, the slow pace is genuinely hypnotic and the guitars and the bass form a wall of unbelievably powerful and droning sound with a layer of processed guitars in the background which, in an almost subliminal way, creates the pleasantly oppressive atmosphere. The music NEVER gets boring, despite the plodding tempos, On the contrary, it sucks the listener in and carries them away to an unknown place. There's no need to speak about the riffs here - the atmosphere, the hypnotic nature of the music, the intelligent songwriting, and the powerful production - all these aspects manage to distract the listener from what notes the musicians actually play. From time to time, a melodic guitar line appears, which adds to the overall beauty of the music because, yes, this is beautiful music. This is music which is extremely emotional, heavy and hypnotic at the same time. It's amazing how this album (and other of Esoteric's works, too) resonates on a purely emotional level to the point where technical aspects become completely irrelevant.
And now the vocals. This is pure genius. Layered, processed screams in tune with the guitars, almost indecipherable, but emotional, terrifying, and powerful. The vocals are almost constantly present, but it's hard to really notice it. Not that they aren't audible, it's quite the opposite really that they are rather used in a purely instrumental way, merging seamlessly with the rest of the music.
"Morphia" finishes and then there comes "The Blood of the Eyes". The first 4 minutes of this song are just too good to be believed. The album is worth buying for this part alone. These 4 minutes are one massive riff with the lead guitar playing along a moving solo with the drums and vocals adding their touches to the experience and the dynamics of the passage. Now the chord progression itself is astonishing, the lead guitar line is agonizingly beautiful, and the screams add to the emotional load of the passage. Truly, EVERYONE interested in music - any music - should listen to this. It might just be the best one of the best musical pieces ever recorded.
Listen to "Morphia" between the 5:00 and 6:30 mark and "Grey Day" around 1:54; see how the motives evolve and build up power and emotion. "Grey Day" is the song that is the most similar to songs from "Metamorphogenesis" as it has more processed guitars in the mix and a bit more busy drumming while "Arcane Dissolution" is an excellent ambient outro.
This album is classified as doom/funeral doom and while this classification is perfectly justified, the music reaches far beyond any genre limitations. It's pure emotion, pure art as I understand it. The notes played, the production, the artwork, the lyrics, the performance, the arrangements, all these melt into a piece of art that is "Subconscious Dissolution Into the Continuum".
So go buy this and all other Esoteric albums.
Like my Septic Flesh review, I only have one of Esoteric’s albums and I will review the album on its own merits. The album itself has interesting guitar work (as the word, riff, isn’t really needed here) and the drums are used for atmospheric purposes, there are some use of feedback as the songs reach their end and hardly any use of keyboards and synths.
Most bands, as mutiilator has pointed out, see four songs as EP or singles material, Esoteric makes full lengths with only three or four songs (anymore than that would need another CD). The vocalist, Greg Chandler, sings in a slow, guttural voice which goes along with the atmospheric guitar work, which shows how much the band care for their craft.
Each song (apart from “Arcane Dissolution”, which is the outro to “Grey Day”) change gears, though the songs themselves never go into any beyond just below mid paced at all, just various shades of slowness and darkness.
The album itself works because the guitar work is actually brilliant as it actually creates the doom-laden atmosphere it intends to create while the drummer comes in when he’s needed and the vocalist himself furthers the atmosphere. Barely any flaws with the craftsmanship of the album, certainly worthy of being of the greatest Doom Metal bands of all-time.
For Esoteric's newest release, Subconscious Dissolution Into the Continuum, they have followed a slightly different path from all their material that preceeds it. For this album, the band has taken more of a funeral doom approach. At points the music sounds in the vein of Thergothon, Skepticism, Stabat Mater, and the like. The overall loudness of their older material has somwhat dissipated, but the vocals are still brutal as they ever were.
Though only 4 tracks long, SDITC stretches over 50 minutes, in the band's usual style. The first track, "Morphia", is heavier and more reminiscent of older Esoteric. The second track, though, reaches deeper into the dark, depressing form of Doom Metal that most fans tend to love. "The Blood of the Eyes" is a 13-minute funeral doom opus, with tons of hair-raising melody and ridden with emotion. The third track, "Grey Day", kind of reminds me of Forest of Shadows, but with Greg's incredible growls. And the final track, "Arcane Dissolution", is an outro which "Grey Day" bleeds right into.
For most bands a 4-track release would be a EP, but for this British Doom masters, they have taken it to the extreme. Esoteric are easily one of the best of the modern Doom acts (though they date back to the time of the 2nd-wave bands). The music encapsulates every aspect of Doom Metal and utilizes it in its purest form to achieve a sound so dark and, well...esoteric. If you're looking for extreme metal that isn't watered down as much as the more popular Doom bands, this is for you.