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Amorphous. - 75%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 28th, 2008

‘Amorphous’ begins our journey through the Polish soundscapes of progressive/technical death metal. Normally, this isn’t my field of ‘expertise’, so bear with me as I blunder my way across the Polish death metal scene and review what was the beginning of the Esqarial’s career. Having started in 1991, one presumes that Esqarial took a lot of influence from the old school scene, and perhaps even the ‘brutal’ sub-genre of death metal, when this record was coming together in 1998, some seven years after the bands formation. To my knowledge, which isn’t that great, the Polish death metal scene is strong. Very strong. There seems to be, through eavesdropping, many bands within this country that have established themselves as top acts. Esqarial appear to have a loyal and steadily growing fan base, but aren’t well documented on this site. Two reviews for ten years of records isn’t a good ratio at all, so I’m aiming to change that and give this band what little recognition I can.

‘Amorphous’, to me, although not without it’s progressive and technical edges, blends the old school sound that bands like Suffocation created on their ‘Effigy Of The Forgotten’ opus. Imagine the aggressive and destructive sound of the previously mentioned record, and blend it with the technical melodies of Meshuggah and this is what Esqarial sound like to me. Of course, this is just my opinion. It’s not word as law, I merely get the aforementioned opinion of Esqarial’s ‘Amorphous’ from what I head and have heard in the past. To justify my opinions, take the song ‘Obsession’ for example. The vocals, death metal’s guttural screams are bellowed out by the boisterous and testosterone filled vocalist, Sui. The progressive nature of Esqarial, amongst other ways, comes out in terms of the vocals too. Whilst the old school style of vocals takes centre stage for much of the record, there are competent backing vocals from Marek, also a guitarist in the band. The multi-talented abilities of the bands members are aptly displayed by both his guitar and vocal abilities. Whilst the backing vocals don’t hold as much presence, they keep the testosterone levels at an all time high which, during the faster paced moments, is good. The production is unusual. It gives the faster tempo material a sinister edge with a dark shadow bearing over it, whilst the mid-paced tempo material is given a lighter edge to it when the melodies begin to kick in.

As I was saying, the melodic elements of Esqarial remind me of Meshuggah’s older material like that present on ‘Destroy Erase Improve’. The melodic moments, which are often stunning, aren’t too few and far between either. Importantly to the audience, they come in every song. The most impressive melodic solos take place during songs like ‘Obsession‘ and ‘The Earth‘. These solos are usually highly technical and take centre stage, allowing the aggression to seep through and be replaced by a natural beauty within the soundscapes. It doesn‘t sound forced, nor does it sound out of place. Esqarial’s song writing, although not as good here as it is on later records, is still noteworthy. Their fine use of melodic guitars and mid-paced instrumentals is what allows the audience to appreciate the sound of the band more. Unlike a lot of death metal, which is usually a semblance of pounding the bass drum and fast riffs which don’t normally allow the audience to take in the music as well as slower sections do, Esqarial do allow the individual listening to take in each and every moment through use of progressive styling on guitars, in particular. The use of aggressive riffs, which are produced, importantly and wisely, by two guitarists during the faster paced progressions allow the vocals meaning. Without aggressive guitars, the vocals wouldn’t sound as well suited to the soundscapes. The vocals aren’t the best aspect of this record, by any means, especially the backing vocals, but they’re good enough.

The use of two guitarists, as stated, is highly important for the development of each song. Take ‘The Earth’, for example. It’s use of two guitarists, one playing a Meshuggah styled riff and one playing a more distorted riff which contains more aggression than the higher pitched tone of the first guitar, that makes songs like this stand out as stylish and superb. Lyrics within the death metal field have never meant that much to me and the same can be said about this records use of lyrics, but they’re not as imperative to the sound of Esqarial as the guitars or the percussion, which demonstrates a lot of creativity and style, is. Oddly, bass doesn’t seem to be as important to the sound, especially the darker side to Esqarial, which is often reminiscent of early Suffocation, as I expected it to be. At times, the bass is barely noticeable. Whilst this isn’t a positive, it doesn’t count as much of a negative as it might seem because the atmospheres of both aggression and harmonic stand up to the test without bass factoring in as much. According to the lyrical themes, Esqarial deal with three main ideas: destruction, dreams and spirituality. This makes perfect sense when reading the lyrics of songs like ‘On The Edge’.

“Don't abandon yourself to the grief
Don't fall to an abeyance
Don't give up cause you're young
Fight with your second side

Don't waste your time for other things
Don't wait for a requiem
Don't hide yourself by the cross
Fight with your own demons.”

While ‘Amorphous’ isn’t the height of death metal brilliance, it is good. I was hooked to the Esqarial sound after I heard this particular record and went to obtain copies of all the other four records they have. I’d recommend it, especially for the excellent song writing and twin guitars. In addition to the number of positives, Esqarial introduced me to Sammath Naur.