The thing that I have always loved about Birmingham spawned UK act Esoteric is their distinct uniqueness and their skill at turning music into art-forms beyond the scope of what one would anticipate. The emotions and atmospheres that they craft by their tortured sonic visions really do take the listener to another world and let me state in no uncertain terms that it can be far from a comfortable place. There are a wealth of artists who take inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft but for me although Esoteric bring crawling terror to their work I often find myself thinking more of the strange worlds of Clive Barker listening to them. I guess everyone will interpret what they will from a band’s music and I also think that as far as Esoteric are concerned there are no right and wrong answers but they are comparable to the darkest works be it in the form of literature, artwork of film. The band have been signed to Season Of Mist for the last few albums and this is a collaboration that seems to be going well, there are not many labels who can successfully market music of this scope. However they have long had ties with British label Aesthetic Death who originally released their first two albums before they were signed elsewhere and have continued to exhibit the group’s work on vinyl. Naturally as I admit to liking the label’s artists on the same sort of level that I take my love of Esoteric to, I jumped at the chance when offered a couple of the most recent limited number records of this fruitful collaboration and give my opinions on them.
First up is ‘Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum’ [8.5] originally out in 2004 on Season Of Mist. It is a weighty exercise in more than mere musical achievement as the vinyl is nice and thick, presented on two slabs with a track on each side. This is the perfect way to represent the bands work as songs are long and frankly the pause involved in turning the disc over physically is welcome, allowing you to take in the terror of what you have just heard. A lot of work has gone into this with a nice card insert giving insights into what was happening in the band at the time of recording. The colour tones of the cover inside and out are pretty mesmerising and looking at them in said state as the music plays, one realises that in this day of MP3 releases there is only one real way that music should be properly presented. Naturally it sounds fantastic as the arid funeral doom of songs like opener ‘Morphia’ ooze in with Nephilimesque dreamy numbing motions divulging into slow ponderous and crushingly bass heavy tones bolstered by Greg Chandler’s eviscerating vocal contortions. It is interesting to note that keyboards are absent completely on this album and this makes the music all the more stripped down and barren feeling which in turn exudes a stygian and cavernous mood about it making it all the more dreadful atmospherically. ‘The Blood Of The Eyes’ lightens the mood gleaming through like a new dawn rising after having pitched us in the blackest of nights. Naturally it evolves into what sounds like an assault of gibbering demons thrust through from other dimensions and crushes with doom death surges but for a moment it gave some form of respite, something that the band are adept at providing before turning things literally on their heads. The albums longest track title ‘Grey Day’ describes things perfectly. It’s a place where the rain never stops, everyone feels trapped by it lashing down without mercy and the wind is equally on its tail. Considering where the band are from they have no problems interpreting their environment to a musical form. The vocal howls are like desolate windswept devastation, rugged and weathered, elongated along with the dismal gloom of the melody. ‘Arcane Dissolution’ one of the shortest songs from the band drops in a discordant, alien abyss. It’s very filmic (I am thinking along the lines of Event Horizon) and akin to gazing into hell itself. Shattering stuff for the unwary!
After a work of such magnitude it was perhaps a surprise that they not only matched it next but expanded on things with 2008 album ‘The Manical Vale’ . This saw the band offering seven tracks spread over two discs at a running length of over 100 minutes. Aesthetic Death have not spared any expense and likewise expanded their vinyl release onto three discs rather than cramming onto two in a very impressive triple gatefold design. The bad trip artwork naturally looks fantastic and beneath the cover lays all sorts of horrors in the music itself. Popular live favourite ‘Circle’ is a monstrous 20 minutes and sounds to my imagination at times like an epic Western set on a panoramic stage with two gunslingers standing off against each other. It’s quite expansive rather than their normal more claustrophobic hymns and to me will always be their ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ number. Leading to an ultimate rage filled showdown as far as I am concerned the combatants have successfully shot each other in the throat and all that surrounds their blood soaked bodies are tumbleweeds blowing down the prairie. Maybe ‘Beneath This Face’ sees a mad surgeon at work but the experiments to transplant have again failed as the this slashes at you in a demented fashion, peeling off the layers and throwing them in disgust to slide down the walls and land in a sickening mangled pile! Like I said Esoteric have the power to send the imagination into strange and uncharted territories.
‘Caucus Of Mind’ is another one that allows it time wise to be comfortably slotted in to the live experience and the juddering bass lines shake the foundations as this picks up speed and vocally gurgles away. It sees the band at their most brutal, hitting like crushed wreckage as it turbulently spews out a diseased sickness which just like the mind is a terrible thing to taste. A sense of fracture pervades ‘Silence’ it may be due to the pain in the vocals or the skewed fashion in some of the time changes, it could be because it hits with the sort of weight associated with an acme anvil dropped off a cliff or a slow avalanche consuming all in its path. It devours its side of the platter like a dangerous black hole in deepest space. Some unexpected flailing progressive guitar patterns float through ‘The Order Of Destiny’ giving it a heady space amidst an otherwise airless vacuum and the feel of the band being in more of a free fall than normal. However as the album started with a massive slice of doom dementia so too it ends with one in the shape of 22 minute odyssey ‘Ignotum Per Ignotius.’ Like a strange tentacle covered beast it psychedelically rises mysteriously and majestically from the depths, the craggy vocal roars stuck to it like barnacles in a symbiotic relationship. It has far to travel and all the time in the world to do so, after all it has been in the depths for aeons before being summoned up once more like a long forgotten god. Eventually it bites and its attack is viciously honed with the drumming bursting and bruising away. As suddenly as it started though it stops and we are dropped into mesmerising sonic pulsing nirvana and dreamily float on the memory of time itself. This is the sort of description I find myself writing whilst listening to this completely straight, hitting the bong to it or the gods forbid imbibing in something stronger are likely to cause such images leaving the space of your head and confronting you in the flesh. Ok descriptively I have got carried away here so I will leave the rest of the track to shatter my already trembling psyche.
In my opinion Esoteric are certainly contenders to hold aloft the crown as being the scariest band on the planet and backed up on such fantastic sounding and looking vinyl packages you know you have to experience both together. Maybe doing so in one hit for both albums was not the cleverest thing and no doubt I may suffer for doing so but the suffering will be as sweet as the pain is legendary!