Thursday, January 8, 2009

Esoteric - Epistemological Despondency

Something about trying to relax in the depth of wintertime told me to sit back and get all lost in a thick blanket of funeral doom; but there is nothing relaxing about this album.
“Epistemological Despondency” is Esoteric’s debut full length album from 1994. Esoteric do create masterful and brain-freezing sludge, but somehow they have always been able to take it much farther over the top than most any other Doom Metal band. One major factor, on this album especially (they toned it down a little bit on later efforts), is the truly hallucinogenic qualities of their sound effects. Every moment of this album is overdosed with universe-swallowing phaser and endless delay. It is obvious that these people really were taking drugs and worshiping Satan while they were recording this album.
Which is exactly why this album is not a relaxing wintertime blanket, these sounds are agitated, shaking with drug-induced tension and confusion. It is true that these kinds of “production techniques” might often lead to a sloppy mess of a record, but somehow Esoteric manage to keep it together. You can still clearly hear every instrument, and every other sonic nuance, of this horrible trip. As the journey into thee cosmos of depression wears on, you start to realize that you are quite lost. This is a 2xCD set and there are only six songs on it. Every song is merciless, mixing the heaviest psychedelic death grooves with panic-inducing vocal attacks. As you listen closer, you start to hear witchy acoustic ephemera creeping into the mix. 10 or 15 minutes into a song, they might even add a blast of spacey synthesizer. All the swimming effects and the guttural intensity of the vocals can really make you queasy after a while. This album is relentless. By the time you make it to the last song, the 26 minute long “Awaiting My Death”; you might find yourself impatiently awaiting death too.
This year Esoteric really made a mark with their 2008 album “Maniacal Vale”. It is cool to finally see this band getting some recognition, including the #10 spot on Terrorizer’s top 40 albums of 2008. Though, I have not yet listened to the entire album yet, Esoteric have always been a consistently uncompromising band. I can only assume that “Maniacal Vale”, like all of those before it, is nearly two hours of bone crushing doom; utterly saturated with completely psychotic special effects. I did get the pleasure of previewing a track from it, and I can say that it sounds like Esoteric have not changed much about their basic formula. There has certainly been an upgrade in recording quality; it is a very powerful sounding record while still retaining some of the old psychedelic murk. The riffs sound a little less groovy, but more contemplative and even a little beautiful. The decadent charm of their debut may always remain my personal favorite, but I am always excited to hear anything that this band creates.

Esoteric's website

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