Esoteric - _Paragon of Dissonance_
(Season of Mist, 2011)
by: Dan Lake (9 out of 10)
Some people just don't do anything half-assed. Or even full-assed. No, some people need two whole asses to feel like they've accomplished anything at all. Germany's The Ocean are one example: from the early siblings _Fluxion_ and _Aeolian_ to _Precambrian_'s prehistoric pairing to the dual dissertation on science's troubled relationship with religion on _Heliocentric_ and _Anthropocentric_, succinct mission statements were clearly never on the agenda.

Arguably, UK death/doom collective Esoteric's motives are somewhat different -- they just play too slowly to fit more than a few songs per disc -- but the physical results are the same. Humble beginnings be damned: their mid-'90s debut _Epistemological Despondency_ trudged through 88 noise-addled minutes; follow-up _ Pernicious Enigma_ spiraled through nearly two hours of rumbling reverb; and 2008's stately _Maniacal Vale_ cracked the hundred-minute mark. At under an hour each, _Metamorphogenesis_ and _Subconscious Dissolution Into the Continuum_ might as well be glorified singles (it takes longer just to pronounce the latter's title correctly).

Befitting such a history, listening to _Paragon of Dissonance_ first requires a grocery run for toilet paper and canned goods. Go ahead, and damn the expense. _Paragon_ is worth every dime and minute spent. Esoteric usually get herded into the funeral doom parlor because of their occasional snail's pace and frequent quarter-hour track lengths, but Joe Fletcher's drums march, tumble, and lunge forward as often as they trudge heavily along. The guitars rarely settle for four-bar power chord shockwaves, instead wrapping everything in haunted melodies, scraping feedback, and jarring note mash-ups that could have been chords if the Earth spun in reverse and all music was played by pygmy vampire golems in the blasted husks of broken cities. And rather than growl incessantly like the 12-ton jaguar his peers impersonate, Greg Chandler widens his vocal range to include disquieting screams, reverbed all to hell and back.

Esoteric flout all expectations of imminent doom fatigue by constantly finding ways to make their metal marathons captivating. Drawing from psychedelic noise ("Aberration"), death-like dynamics ("Cipher"), gorgeous post-whatever crescendos ("Non Being"), and chest-hair-sprouting solos ("Disconsolate" and "Abandonment"), they merge all manner of extreme styles into cohesive artifacts of annihilation. Compositions are alternately dense and delicate, open major chords trading off with frightening discord to layer the textures of mood and meaning.

Of course, none of this (save the sweetly plinking piano in "Loss of Will" and "Disconsolate") is new ground for Esoteric. If that fact cancels your trip to the record store, though, then you were never the target audience anyway. _Paragon of Dissonance_ is quite simply the best double dose of death/doom this year and just about any other year. You can bet your asses.

Contact: http://www.esotericuk.net/

(article published 8/12/2011)


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