Review Summary: ...and on that day, the drugs really weren't that bad
While this album proves they may not be perfect, there’s one thing Esoteric do undeniably better than anyone else and that’s describing their own music. Everything is so perfectly encapsulated in the one word that comprises their band name, there’s almost no need for a further explanation of their sound. And yet somehow they managed to do it, branding themselves as “hateful, drug-influenced tortured doom.”
With that said, this is music that you will either love or find utterly hilarious. Like all bands that operate within this excessively dark, depressing genre, there are only so many ways self-loathing can be expressed without sounding completely ridiculous. Therefore, it’s a prerequisite to be in touch with the darkest parts of your psyche when attempting to listen to this. These tunes are slow and heavy, and I mean really slow and really heavy. This is Esoteric’s most traditionally funeral doom metal release so expect nothing less than to be battered with the same riff again and again for close to 20 minutes in some songs. The ‘drug-influenced’ aspect of their sound may be far less prominent in this release, but still makes an appearance courtesy of some fairly impressive psychedelic guitar-work by frontman Greg Chandler and guitarists Gordon Bicknell and Steve Peters. The use of three guitars on top of the bass and drums creates a dense sound that envelops you in a nightmarish atmosphere.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Chandler’s hateful growls are beaten into your skull synchronously with the plodding riffs. While they’ve certainly changed a lot from their effect-laden ‘bad acid trip’ vibe on previous releases, the use of a more traditional death-doom growl works well within the context of the album.
So the question remains: what is it that makes Subconscious Dissolution...
weaker than any of the group’s other releases? Well for starters there’s the aforementioned lack of psychedelic influences that made Esoteric so unique to begin with. Whereas The Pernicious Enigma
utilised voice samples, effects, and straight-up bursts of death metal to keep the ride interesting, Subconscious Dissolution...
sees the band happy to simply keep things moving at a snail’s pace. While some may view this as a positive aspect, Esoteric have always been at their best when they vary the tempo a bit and unfortunately on this album it just never comes. And so even though this is one of the shortest releases by the band, it gets boring very quickly. The only mildly interesting change comes in the form of the opening lead of “The Blood of the Eyes,” but even that quickly descends right back into a barrage of slow, monotonous riffs. The production is also a little too clear for my liking, detracting from the atmosphere that is such an integral part of their sound.
Regardless, if you’re a fan of bands such as Thergothon and Evoken and haven’t checked these guys out yet, this would probably be a good starting point because of its more digestible length and similarities to the traditional funeral doom sound. Overall, this is an unconvincing but not altogether bad release from a band capable of so much more.