Now this is a real relic and not that I want to make anyone feel old or anything but it was quarter of a century ago that we were first exposed to the hallucinatory musical trauma of Esoteric. I can’t remember when I first saw the band live, hell I can’t remember much from that time but they still had the cassette on sale and were probably performing tracks from this and debut album ‘Epistemological Despondency.’ This warped my brain and anyone else that heard their music and the band formed in Birmingham have continued to do so over 6 full length albums. The last of these ‘Paragon Of Dissonance’ was released back in 2011 and we have been patiently awaiting new material for some time now. A band like Esoteric cannot be rushed though but apparently rumours are that they are playing something new at their London show in March. Until then you can attempt to wrap your head around this re-mastered 78 minute demo, be warned though if it is your first exposure to the band, things may never be quite the same again.
The self-titled track Esoteric crawls in and at first exposure to Greg Chandlers barks one thinks how rough this sounds and even can the man sing? It’s a primitive start but as things continue it is clear that this is a bit of a misnomer as he obviously can and expresses a whole gamut of expressive emotions as things continue. Whether these are aided by his trademark cordless microphone headset (were they around back then?) is uncertain. We have strange almost alien guttural slowly spoken voices and huge screams shredding the firmament as the music sluggishly rumbles on. Obviously Esoteric are known as forerunners of the funeral doom scene and these origins are clearly established here but so too are the doom death leanings of many another UK act, it’s just that none of the others sounded quite like this and frankly never would. Sudden surging gallops are not out of place here amidst the wrung out and elongated notes and gothic led acoustic sections. Musically this sounds a lot looser than today, technology and means available have made it so obviously and Chandler is renowned for work in that capacity. Still with the re-mastering this is seriously not lacking in any way and gives you a real feel for the time and place (ie it makes you a little on the giddy side).
The repressing on CD looks lovely, housed in thick booklet style, you can even read the lyrics and try and fathom out just what they were going on about over their Esoteric track titles and lyrics. The illustrations are likely to give you flashbacks and I guess no photos are necessary, use your imagination and visualise the ghoulish characters playing these throbbing notes. Most of the players have long since disappeared into the mists of time apart from Chandler and guitarist (and at the time keyboard player) Gordon Bicknell. It would be interesting to discover where they are (or what mental institution they reside in now). Drummer Darren Earl certainly gives a hefty clattering on In Solitude and hits the mark here and I like the way that ‘Enslavers Of The Insecure’ throbs in sounding like it could be something from the likes of other Brummie gods Godflesh or even Scorn before trotting off and beating out a solid pounding and unexpected deathly rhythm. Keep your ears peeled for a flamboyant squealing riff here and those vocals really do go rather psychedelic, some sort of strange substance has definitely kicked in.
Esoteric are known among fans for the length of songs which have seen re-pressings on vinyl with one track easily taking up a whole side of wax. The biggest monster here is ‘Eyes Of Darkness’ at almost 17 minutes in length. It also at start showcases they could add a sense of beauty about things rather than just impenetrable ghastly horror as a free-fall guitar passage warmly wraps itself around you. Of course it’s a precursor to thundery doom fuelled madness and a journey as dense as finding oneself in the throes of a particularly lucid nightmare. A sample slithers out the ether sounding particularly distorted and the track gathers pace with strange sounds coming at you, echoing from all angles. A guitar motif reminiscent of My Dying Bride does seep in later on the track but one thing you could never accuse this band of is cribbing from others, it’s a momentary fragment before what sounds like Doctor Who battling with monsters really makes you wonder just what on earth is going on. I have just realised that there are no lyrics for ‘Infanticidal Tendencies’ and that’s probably as well. The vocals sound slowed down and I have the nasty feeling from snippets about sweets I can just about make out they could be coming from the twisted mind of a child molester. Don’t quote me on this, I don’t know for certain and not sure I even want to ugh. The horrible screams as this goes haywire don’t help at all. This could actually be in contention for one of the most horrible songs ever written.
Well, an easy listen was never on the cards here and this certainly is not one in the slightest, whether you are dwelling in the nightmare of your own imagination, taken there by the music itself or shuddering to the sudden bursts of echoing vocals and strange slithering guitar sounds coming out the speakers from songs like ‘Expectations Of Love’ there is a reason I have called Esoteric the scariest band on the planet. Their opening work revisited only solidifies my take on them. If you are feeling like finding out for yourself make sure you leave a trail of breadcrumbs and can find your way out again.
Now about that next album….
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)