Those of you who read my review of “Metamorphogenesis” already know how highly I think of this band. ESOTERIC is easily one of the top acts in Doom Metal today, and they’ve been going strong for about 12 years now. It’s hard to believe such a unique band slipped past my attention for all this time, but ever since 1999’s “Metamorphogenesis” I got firmly hooked. A few months ago, I finally got the chance to witness their full force in live setting at the Belgian Doom Night. In short, they blew everyone away (and actually managed to clear some of the venue). It was a night to remember. However, I felt the small club in which they played did not do justice to their music. It was almost comical to see the seven band members crammed into the little stage. The drummer was pushed somewhere against the back wall while the keyboardists were obscured by equipment and the guitarists tried not to fall over each other. It just doesn’t feel right for a band that has been churning out doom masterpieces for a steady decade now, but I fear that’s something ESOTERIC will forever be cursed with. Their music will never appeal to the general masses, not even in popular metal circles.
So anyway, it’s been a long time since “Metamorphogenesis”’ release; five years to be precise. A time in which ESOTERIC wrote “Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum”, a record originally set for a 2002 release, but the band was delayed by numerous setbacks. In the mean time, the band signed to Season Of Mist and fortunately managed to get the line-up somewhat stable again. ESOTERIC is one of those bands that’s ever plagued by inner turmoil, and it’s a miracle their troubles have never interfered with them carrying their apocalyptic vision unrelentingly forward to new heights and limits.
So here we are, 2004, and “Subconscious Disslotion Into The Continuum” (SDITC from here on) is at long last a fact. For those of you who’ve never heard of the band, here’s a quick recap: ESOTERIC resides somewhere on the crossroad of noise, psychedelia and extreme Doom Metal. Playing at funeral doom speed with heavily distorted bass, a stone wall of guitars, haunting samples and hair-raising vocals, ESOTERIC’s sound is comparable to a bad LSD trip or a hard drug overdose. They are without a doubt the most gloomy, suicidal, psychedelic and devastating band currently in existence, and manage to entrance and depress at the same time with their bizarre soundscapes. And if that description isn’t adequate enough for you to get the idea, I can only recommend a listen.
It’s been two months now since I first bought SDITC, and I admit to being disappointed with it initially. First of all, SDITC doesn’t quite kick in the way “Metamorphogenesis” did. “Morphia” is a slow burner compared to “Dissident”. Where “Metamorphogenesis” relentlessly crashed onto its listeners, SDITC is more reserved and instead creeps under your skin at a deliberately underhand speed. It took some time for me to get used to, but after a while I was as deeply involved in the material as I first was with “Metamorphogenesis”.
“The Blood Of The Eyes” starts out with the most hauntingly beautiful solo the band has ever written, but the song itself is actually rather lightweight compared to their typical extremities. Or perhaps that’s a bad definition. “The Blood Of The Eyes” is an intensely sad song but thoroughly moving, which gives it an almost classical flair. Like “Morphia”, it refrains from bursting straight into apocalypse. It’s a shame the outro isn’t as satisfying, which is a symptom ESOTERIC’s music often seems to be suffering from. Instead of rounding up, they stray a little, unsure where to go next. “Grey Day” is hands down the best song on this record. It’s a devastating juggernaut of depression and despair, where one great movement rolls into the next. It’s a complex and multi-layered song that marks the high point of SDITC, and there’s really not much else to be said about it. If “Morphia” and “The Blood Of The Eyes” were build-up, “Grey Day” is all pay-off, and at the end, it slowly fizzles into the droning noises of “Arcane Dissolution”.
The beauty of Doom Metal lies entirely in its slowness (naturally), and as I mentioned earlier, it often leans close to classical music in terms of scope and ambition. While traditional Doom could be traced back to early romantic classical, the most recent Doom bands move along the same controversial paths of modern minimalism and dissonance. Funeral doom bands like SHAPE OF DESPAIR could easily be compared to the former, while ESOTERIC is essentially a post-modern rendition of the latter, with its myriad of clashing sounds, psychedelic repeats and disharmonic tension. Songs unfold slowly, while every note weaves an essential facet into its melody. When a note is right, it’s spot on, but likewise, when a note is wrong, it’s also dead wrong. An entire doom song could be ruined on a false note. Personally, I’ve always found doom metal’s structural development much more gratifying than in any of the other metal genres. I only wish more bands would take time, and let their songs roll out by themselves instead of speeding along their verse-chorus arrangements. ESOTERIC’s music shows how it can be done.
However, while you were wasting your time reading this terribly long-winded review, you could have just gone out and bought the album. Recommended! (Online November 24, 2004)
Guest reviewer Ben Meuleman