Review Summary: How to needlessly throw away your own talent
There’s a bit of a taboo when it comes to one band following another’s sound too closely. We Are The Ocean got a lot of stick for tagging along behind Alexisonfire, and in completely separate musical territory Beach House have been criticised for taking such large influence from Cocteau Twins. That being said, when it comes down to it the quality of the music is what matters most, and with their first two albums Esoterica gained a modest following with a brand rock often earning comparisons to A Perfect Circle or being tagged as a more accessible version of Tool. Their music was based around catchy melodies but there was still a depth to the instruments which made the music engaging. It was nothing truly groundbreaking, but it was solid and enjoyable.
Esoterica’s subsequent rebranding (including changing their name to “ESO”) is a little strange, but given the aforementioned context it’s possible to see why the band might want to explore a separate musical route. What’s really baffling is where they’ve ended up on their third album, Nothing Left To Lose
. The music’s not wholly different to before but the progressive elements have been toned down towards a more regular alternative rock formula. Even more noticeable is the change in production, which has been ramped up significantly. This includes a much larger use of electronic components. These changes were hinted at on the band’s second album, The Riddle
, but even there they stuck out awkwardly and detracted from the general grit that the band somehow seem reluctant to stick to. The guitars are often a continuous mush of distortion, the lead parts which played such an important part in their music before are still occasionally present but have mostly been lost in the mix and the electronic elements range from bland and ineffective to downright awful. This is most noticeable towards the end of “The Divide”, where the song suddenly and inexplicably bursts into an awkward mess of electro buzzes which sound like a horrible and tepid attempt to jump onto the back of the recent trend.
With the instrumental aspect of the music in disarray, it’s almost exclusively the vocal melodies which provide anything redeemable, but even then the hooks are weaker than they were before. There are the occasional catchy moments, with “Birds In a Hurricane”, “The Divide”, “You Are Mine” and “We are Watching You” providing the best of these, but even these examples, few and far between, are nothing truly exciting. Esoterica were nothing incredibly special but at least they had a solid balance between catchy alternative rock and borrowed progressive influences. As ESO and with Nothing Left To Lose
, their sound is bland, overproduced and tacky, and the music’s turned into a case of having to scavenge for the good moments.