Review Summary: A huge improvement on their last release, and a very good doom album in its own right.
A double album in the genre of funeral doom can be tricky. What every doom band faces is overcoming the pitfalls of monotony, and when you make an album with a playtime of over 100 minutes, it really needs to be special. Esoteric’s The Maniacal Vale
is the British band’s 5th full length, and although an unrelenting and torturous album, it’s actually very good. Had their last album been of the magnitude of The Maniacal Vale
, I do not doubt it would have been a horrendously arduous and dull album to listen to. Even at only 4 songs, it still is tough to get through. Fortunately for us, Esoteric have altered the dynamics of their song-writing, resulting in what is a diverse and inviting album.
Unlike albums of a similar nature who leave the longest track ‘till last, Esoteric have the benefit of having two monstrous tracks to work with, and have nicely book-ended the album, with ‘Circle’ at the beginning and ‘Ignotum Per Ignotius’ as the closer. ‘Circle’ begins with almost uplifting and epic melody, one you’d expect playing as a ruggedly handsome survivor of the Apocalypse lifts himself up and gazes towards the horizon, in time to see the huge sun appear, marking the beginning of a new day. It’s a terrific introduction, and even the addition of Greg Chandler’s oppressive vocals do not dampen the mood. Nevertheless, over the course of the song, the mood is changed to one of horror as the music drops several octaves and Chandler begins to scream. With The Maniacal Vale
, Esoteric have achieved the balance that is sought by all funeral doom; maintaining slow tempos without becoming monotonous.
Some of the shorter tracks (well, 7 minutes), such as ‘Caucus of Mind’ are exemplary in breaking up the album into different moods. ‘Caucus of Mind’ begins with a lovely descending bass note, which falls into a crushing riff that is played to an ever increasing tempo. The song then bursts to life and any notion of ‘funeral doom’ is blasted out of your mind. It ends just as quickly as it begun however, the song collapsing in on itself and leaving you to brood over the recent few minutes of extremity. Moreover, the track ‘The Order of Destiny’ has a lengthy guitar solo which surprisingly fits very well. The point is, simply put, that The Maniacal Vale
is not boring; rather, it’s exciting, and the transitions between the moods are taken with the utmost care to not disrupt the flow of the album. Not only this, but atmospheric passages that serve as a break between particular moments are very carefully placed, and again, help the album retain its motion. What I particularly liked about the slower, melancholic sections was that they seem to imply that it’s all quiet on the Esoteric front, but there is always something rumbling beneath the surface, straining to get out.
Anyone who has listened to Esoteric before will know that the band has a unique sound; much in the same way Worship’s sound is unique by their use of meandering lead guitars, Esoteric also have a particular feel to their music, made up by a combination of the vocals, and their attention to detail. A coating of synth is smeared all over The Maniacal Vale
, not really being prominent but enhancing the smoothness of the album. Chandler’s vocals, as mentioned before, shift along the spectrum of low and high, with everything in-between. Yes, he is completely indecipherable, which may irritate some, but there is no doubt his vocal performance on the album is superb. The final track, ‘Ignotum Per Ignotius’, takes its time to warm up, working its way to an extraordinary climax for almost 10 minutes, then falling back into slumber once again. The band still continues to torment you however, building the mood back up through an intricate guitar line and exploding into an aggressive climax once again. Finally, the song dissolves into chaos, ending with what sounds a fierce storm; a fitting end to what is a beast of an album.
Admittedly, funeral doom is a difficult genre to enjoy. In that respect, The Maniacal Vale
may be a bit too much. Even for the typical doom listener, an album of this length and severity is a hard listen. I would go as far as saying that the album is too long but do not be mistaken into thinking it could be cut down and therefore better; this is not the case at all. There is no real ‘filler’ on this album. Yes, it’s very long, but almost everything on here follows the Esoteric mindset, and has its own purpose in regards to the album overall. Fortunately, the length is easily remedied; just consider each CD to be separate, and listen to them separately. Whether or not you regard the length as an issue, The Maniacal Vale
is a strong album. It greatly improves upon their previous album (Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum
) and further accentuates the cementing of Esoteric into the annals of funeral doom. Highly recommended.