If you've ever wondered who the heaviest band of all time is, you might want to consider ESOTERIC as strong contenders for the title. If not the inventors of funeral doom metal, then certainly the band that have taken the genre furthest into the fathomless cosmos. The Brits have amassed a substantial but sporadic catalogue of albums that have each offered a wickedly immersive take on slow-motion sludge and the darkest of ambience. While not exactly fun to listen to, depending on how many drugs you've taken recently, ESOTERIC albums are always a very physical and cerebral experience. Imagine a giant sensory deprivation tank designed by H.R. Giger: well, this is what your shadowy overlords will be piping through the PA as you descend into watery madness and the doors snap shut.
To say that ESOTERIC have a recognizable sound would be slightly misleading, because despite nearly always travelling at snail's pace, this band's surfeit of brilliant, skewed ideas has never been in doubt, and their mastery of disorientating texture and tone has only grown over the decades. In fact, much of "A Pyrrhic Existence" showcases a more highly evolved sound than anything they have released before. With six songs that take a daunting 98 minutes to play out to their bruising conclusion, this is an album that demands commitment, but it's so full of ingenuity and near-tangible otherworldliness that it may exert a black hole-like pull on listeners of a more adventurous disposition.
As opening statements go, 27-minute opener "Descent" is fairly outrageous, both in terms of its length and due to its remorseless, nihilistic undertow. When Greg Chandler's vocals burst through the fog at the three-and-a-half-minute mark, it's like the voice of some fearsome, hateful deity resounding through thick storm clouds to the Earth below. Riffs expand and contract, twisting into new forms but never straying from a dogged forward and downward crawl. ESOTERIC's wall of guitars and subterranean bottom end never conform to funeral doom-type either: eight minutes into "Descent", a blizzard of whited-out black metal erupts, sodden with reverb and churned beyond recognition, and then you realize that there are still 19 minutes to go and we're still on the first track. The rest of the album sustains that startling level of invention and willful obscurity and, as you sink further into the miasma, starts to feel like a truly defiant salute to indulgence in an age of short attention spans and blank-eyed narcissism. This is heavy stuff, without question.
As I said, "A Pyrrhic Existence" requires commitment, but if you want to hear a devastating doom record that will truly dismantle your soul and hurl it into the blackest of transcendental cauldrons, ESOTERIC remain one of the few bands on this godforsaken planet that always deliver.
Author: Dom Lawson