Esoteric
The Pernicious Enigma


5.0
classic

Review

by noisymugwump USER (30 Reviews)
July 6th, 2009 | 39 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Esoteric's magnum opus, an unrivaled masterpiece if there ever was one.

Three years after their landmark "Epistemological Despondency" album Esoteric released what I consider their magnum opus, the mighty and undeniable classic "The Pernicious Enigma". Their style hadn't changed much, but it was most fully realized and perfectly executed in this two hour double album masterpiece. The dull analog production, precise composition and oppressive atmosphere come to a head on this album, the quality of which they have not since achieved and will never likely be rivaled by any band in the doom metal genre.

The sound here is most representative of Esoteric's style. The merging of dullness and clarity allows their complex, full and warm sound flourish, and buries the abrasive screeching and high end sounds which compliment the sub end pounding rhythms. The rhythm guitar churns out heavy chords which create a backbone of low end rumbling over which leads crawl out and eerily squeal, or follow along with dark and depressive melodies. Using three guitars at a time allows them to employ a varying interplay of melodies, often using effects to create a bizarre ambiance and move the sound from moody plodding to harsh and off the wall strangeness (sometimes leading people to describe their style as "psychedelic"). Clean guitars appear here and there, often with reverb and delay which assists in the moody sections and the sometimes jazzy or psychedelic parts. The bass has a dull fuzzy tone and vibrates into the super low rhythms. The drums, while minimal are played skillfully and use interesting fills and various techniques to avoid the simplistic plodding characteristic of doom metal and most especially funeral doom. They even work into jazzy sections in songs such as "NOXBC9701040". They are low in the mix and often buried in the dull hazy fuzz of the sound, but they can be heard clearly, especially the thudding of the toms and bass drum. The vocals are normally lower grunts or Greg Chandler's unique piercing high screams drenched in delay which work into the oddities of the guitar effects in the haze of ambiance which often ensues in between lengthy sections of plodding doom. As with most of their albums, they have a brief lapse in style for one song, the speedier death metal track "At War with the Race".

Every aspect of this album is meticulously planned and perfectly composed, with expert musicianship, clear yet murky production, and an atmosphere of darkness, oppression, unease and insanity pervading their sound. You can hear no mistakes, no lapses in the sound where a lame filler riff takes over, and despite playing extremely long songs at such slow paces, they manage to create a captivating and always interesting sound. The use of samples buried in a murky low sound also helps push their morose themes, such as a soldier explaining behind the sounds of artillery exploding and guns firing that everyone is afraid, or a blind man (Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman") screaming "WHAT LIFE? I GOT NO LIFE! I'M IN THE DARK HERE, YOU UNDERSTAND? I'M IN THE DARK!".

Esoteric had nearly mastered their highly original and innovative approach to doom metal with 1994's "Epistemological Despondency", but "The Pernicious Enigma" moves them to the most unattainable heights and to me is their most refined and masterfully executed work. They shame the entire funeral doom subgenre, which is marred by boredom, simplicity, faggy goth and "atmospheric" death/doom styles, and worst of all trendy drum machine-using bedroom projects. They stand as perhaps the most dark, eerie, depressive, bizarre and well-put together band to come out of the doom metal genre, and certainly the best to emerge from the second wave (early 90s and onward). This album is recommended to doomers of all types, and really anyone fascinated by the strong musicianship and atmosphere that can only be delivered by the mighty, powerful and unstoppable Esoteric. For those who were introduced to the band by their most recent effort "The Maniacal Vale", feast your ears on this one and experience what they are/were really capable of. It may take quite a few listens to pierce this gem, as its sound is not as simplistic as it may first appear, but to me it's well worth it as this album remains near the top of my overall favourites.



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user ratings (58)
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4.3
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DrMartinVanNostrand (5)
Once there was a heavy band. They were so heavy that everyone died. The end....


Comments:Add a Comment 
noisymugwump
July 6th 2009


103 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I ended up changing my rating of Epistemological Despondency to 4.5 on account of this album. Also, a lot of people will probably say "too slow for me!" from the get-go.

fireaboveicebelow
July 6th 2009


6837 Comments


hmmm, I'll listen when I have 2 hours to spare which should beeeee sunday

rattlehead42147
July 7th 2009


1345 Comments


excellent album, just got epistemological despondency the other day since i've listened to this one so much

Spare
July 7th 2009


5306 Comments


too many confusing words

Digging: Best Witches - Wishes

rasputin
July 7th 2009


14544 Comments


I need to hear this one still, Esoteric rule.

xbris
July 7th 2009


14 Comments


this has nothing to do with the metalcore band 'the esoteric' amirite?

Wizard
July 7th 2009


19406 Comments


Really, really good review dude.

For those who were introduced to the band by their most recent effort "The Maniacal Vale", feast your ears on this one and experience what they are/were really capable of.

I don't know dude, I think I said this in your last Esoteric review, but Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum was so fucking boring that I'm afraid of killing myself listening to anything that came before it. The Manical Vale has such a nice range of variation that it feels hard to go back. Oh well, what fireabove said hahahaha.

rattlehead42147, where the fuck have you been?

this has nothing to do with the metalcore band 'the esoteric' amirite?

Two VERY different bands.

Digging: Khonsu - Traveller

Mendigo
July 7th 2009


2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love both The Maniacal Vale and Metamorphogenesis (which is the one after this I believe?), so I'll get this now.
great review.

noisymugwump
July 7th 2009


103 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

the_wizard, Subconscious Dissolution was their most watered down and simplistic album. Their first three are a lot more complex.

Wizard
July 7th 2009


19406 Comments


Well, you don't need to tell me twice hahaha. Looking into them : ).

Mendigo
July 11th 2009


2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

awesome sauce

InHumanForm
October 30th 2009


316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good stuff

FadeToBlack
May 21st 2010


10926 Comments


this is insanse, takes immense dedication to even get through the album

FadeToBlack
May 21st 2010


10926 Comments


115 minutes of HVJJVKKNNIFWEFJWDDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMWQFWFBWHJFVBWJ

115 minutes

kount
May 21st 2010


1279 Comments


how did u survive

FadeToBlack
May 22nd 2010


10926 Comments


probably helped that I fell asleep

Homeslice
March 18th 2011


177 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Since the songs are soo long, anyone have any favorites on this album?

Sinistrous is such an awesome song, with the distorted vocals and the very dark almost evil atmosphere. The lyrics are superb, and they bring out the evil in the song. Pair this together with "At War With the Race" and it makes for a hell of a combo

Piglet
January 20th 2012


4654 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

jammin this like a pancake.

YUJOS
February 13th 2012


918 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Worth listening this album,even at 115 minutes

Digging: Secrets of the Moon - Seven Bells

Funeralopolis
February 13th 2012


11364 Comments


Glad you found a rating more suited to your needs and could accommodate others! Compromise is a powerful too, often overlooked. Good job!

Digging: Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick



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