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Following the release of Spectral, Skyfire encountered many problems leading up to the release of Esoteric. While the band was not rushed, and had ample time to perfect the songs, the problems are reflected in the music. Regrettably Henrick Wenngren left Skyfire along with bassist Jonas Sjögren, they suffered from several computer crashes, and the band's previous record label went bankrupt. Despite all these issues Skyfire still managed to put out a pretty good album.
Esoteric in of itself is a well put together album, the music is of great quality and the new singer (Joakim Karlsson) shows us that he is ready to fill the void left by Henrick. His voice is notably different than Henrick's and while he is a very good vocalist, Henrick was at top gear in Spectral. Previous fans may find Jocke's voice a little too different from previous Skyfire works. Choir like elements are added into the album, and to be blunt, they aren't needed.
The guitars in Esoteric are notably different as well, the guitar sound is far deeper and in some ways more complex. They show how the band has musically matured over their long break. Johan Reinholdz brings in solo's, something Martin and Edlund had never put into previous Skyfire works. While they bring a new element to the music, the solo's are something Skyfire used to intentionally avoid in order to focus on the music itself more.
The bass is in the music, but in a way it feels like Mind Revolution again in that it's not very audible. The drums are as always with Joakim Johnsson, awesome. The drums between Spectral and Esoteric seemed to have changed somewhat. If anything they got a little slower, which in a way is good because it matched the deeper guitar feel very well.
The album opens with Deathlike Overture, leading into more piano which is the start of the song Esoteric. That in of itself was a downer. Deathlike Overture prepares one for a heavy riff or screaming intro, but instead it leads into more piano. Esoteric is a good song, well put together and somewhat catchy, it will most certainly keep one interested. Rise and Decay is perhaps the best track on the album, it feels very refreshing to those looking for the old Skyfire sound, while intertwining the new elements very well. Let the Old World Burn is kind of an average song on this album, the one good thing is that it's not too long. The length of some songs such as Darkness Descending kind of took away from the feel of the album as the song kind of meshes together,and then you end up focusing on something else. Then the song is over.
I found the song seclusion to be incredible, almost as good if not better than Rise and Decay. It has very similar structure to the songs from Timeless Departure, but it still has the Esoteric feel to it. Misery's Supremacy is a very well written song, while it's long, one can thoroughly enjoy it. Jocke's voice sounds amazing in this song, and the bass is actually audible at some points. Under a Pitch Black Sky doesn't bring anything you haven't already heard to the table. Linger in Doubt is another strong song, and Legacy of the Defeated's length takes away from the value of the music, in a way it's an amazing outro song, but it's a little too long.
I feel as though I should mention Within Reach. While it's not an official part of the album, it is a bonus song on every version of the CD. Within Reach is the earliest released recording of Skyfire, and hearing it was awesome. It showed us what Skyfire was originally going to be. Luckily they decided to go with a more energetic approach. Hopefully skyfire will release faces and Open Flower from the Within Reach demo.
So in conclusion, while not as good as Spectral or Mind Revolution, Esoteric is a good release by a great band. The newer orchestral and piano elements bring a new feel. Unfortunately it feels as though they tried to fix something that wasn't broken. Spectral was a stronger release and if you're looking for Skyfire's best don't turn to Esoteric. However it certainly shows how the band has evolved and I certainly look forward to hearing more from them in the future.