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At the very core, Esoteric is Spectral Part II, which I can believe many fans won’t have any issues with. Personally, I find the songs to be more somber than the fervent ones from Spectral, but the similarities are too noticeable: same crisp production, same charging power leads, traditional heavy metal ethics, and the keyboard melodies are essentially the same. The songs run together a little more than the previous album like there’s some sort of remorse and collective guilt. Above all else, most of the songs are incredibly boring; the fact that they borrowed so heavily from Spectral just makes it seem like these tracks were either left out or needed to be reworked a bit to get them up to standard. The songs are all generally mid-paced and the average length is longer than before, but while these characteristics worked for Spectral, this one’s just too tedious.
Regardless of the band’s neutrality toward coming up with something new, their songwriting in terms of arrangements has improved, with some of the longer songs sounding very epic and above their usual quality. “Darkness Descending” was the first song I noticed with theatrical traits and an edge that pushes the genre even further into power metal territory than the tedium of melodic death. Vocals are much more akin to death growls than the deathly screams of Henrik Wenngren. The growls, however, I’m not such a fan of – there are death growls, and then there are Gothenburg-ish death growls like these that sound so fake, weak, and monotonous. There’s no power behind them at all, and they’re the biggest reason as to why I find this album very tiring to get through; if it weren’t for the eclectic leads, I would have given up already. There are some clean vocals at the very end, too, but they’re even less impressive than the growls.
Speaking of which, there seems to be a conflict going on between the power metal leads and the melodic death / borderline metalcore riffs. Don’t kill me just yet, but pay attention to what they don’t want you to pay attention to – the riffs. The chugginess, the semi-breakdowns, the watered-down brutality that’s supposed to be catchy; it’s hoping to focus your attention on the driving harmony, which is fine until you feel the power of the guitar beginning to wear thin, too. The lead makes this album a keeper to most, which soar high and mighty while the guitars lurk in the nether regions of the rhythm with the drums trying to gain momentum. Spectral lasts longer in my book because it was able to mend together the lead harmony and riff / drum charge together without putting pressure on one instrument – everything was melodic there.
The bass I’m always a fan of, but here it gets swept over with a dirty mop. You can hear it pretty clearly like it’s right under the lead, but it’s so unimposing and helpless. You hear everything so loudly and clearly, and then under it all is this little bass grumbling like a Skittle in a jar of Peanut M&M’s. Drumming pulverizes it, though, with Jonsson going completely berserk by throwing blast beats and catchy patterns alike in a boiler. The kit is crisp and lively; craters are being made right now by the shockwaves that are created every time I blast this. This is the only department that beats its counterpart in Spectral, since some of the drum pieces there sounded too clicky and mechanical.
Overall, I’m not too awed, but then again I wasn’t really anticipating this one that much by the time news of its releases began to roll around. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach and I didn’t necessarily spend much time reading up on what was going on. I did look into it at one point regarding one of the band members, but that’s about the most I’d dedicate, and it was for the better because I’ve moved on now. Those who still consider themselves fans of the band will love this album, as it offers much of the same that Spectral was loved for. I still prefer that album by a mile to this one, but then again it’s all the same to me at the end of the day.