Review Summary: A new plane of existence.
Doom metal has always had the preconception of slow compositions, lumbering chord progressions and gut-wrenching low growls. When you couple that with some lengthy track times, overarching themes and a tendency to take metal’s stereotypes and slow them down to the nth degree (without getting into the specifics of drone music) you can begin to understand why the genre has such a selective fanbase. Despite the genre’s Sabbath-incepted perception there’s individuality that sets one act apart from the other - whether it be the Saint Vitus or Candlemass offerings rooted in blues rock or the death doom of more modern acts such as Mournful Congregation, who leaned on the more depressive moods and grieving dirge-like atmospheres. The doom genre (especially that of funeral doom) showcased a level of musical extremity that didn’t need to incorporate faster tempos to convey emotion or story. A band’s niche sound was only defined by where the act itself wanted to take their music and by how much they felt they conformed to the guidelines set before them.
Esoteric are particularly formidable when bringing in the fundamental assets of such a niche soundscape and combining them with progressive musical traits and genre-bending rituals. The band’s last export, Paragon Of Dissonance
is a swirling monolithe of funeral doom metal, molten in its movement into ungodly heavy territories, but it never stayed in the genre’s more comfortable compositional tropes. Instead, Esoteric gave life to death, black metal and elements of post metal which shaped a revitalised sound. This year, Esoteric’s newest follows similarly in the path of its predecessor; reaffirming the vitality of a genre. It’s a given that A Pyrrhic Existence
doesn’t re-invent the world of doom, but rather brings some tried and true elements (particularly of death metal) into a glorious culmination of top-tier doom music.
The album’s opener sets the tone for Esoteric’s seventh full-length, but it’s somewhat ironic that “Descent” is a twenty-seven(plus) minute [quality] crescendo into one of the year’s better records. Slow brooding chords ring into rolling drum beats, while being juxtaposed by a warning, sticking atmosphere. Esoteric paint a portrait of sinister overtones that remain pensive while they build towards gentle melody and yet it’s the track’s bleaker, more minimalistic moments that draw the listener in. It’s Esoteric’s ability to meld moments of disquiet and uneasiness into larger portraits of melody, intertwining intense heaviness with surreal harmony that carries one display of compositional anxiety well into the rest of the album. Similarly, “Rotting In Dereliction” tumults into a world of dissonant doom trappings, helping reinforce the band’s somber, but forward moving genre bending that lives in a world of decay, dissent, anguish and eventually, the schmaltzy ambiance of “Antim Yatra” in which Esoteric dial back the sheer intensity but add an almost relaxing reprieve from their sonic landscape.
It’s short-lived, as A Pyrrhic Existence
reaches into the chasm again for it’s second half. Sure, the fact that Esoteric’s seventh full-length broaches over one-hundred minutes of run-time may be a drag [read: turn off] for those less inclined to embrace the bottomless atmosphere often associated with funeral doom. But when considered in regards to the rest of the genre, the patience is well-rewarded with some of the genre’s better exploits this decade. Notes of distortion and delay awaken the album’s second disc, “Consuming Lies” is as masterful as the opener, combining an increased melody with subtle leads and ever powerful vocals, but the track itself is at a different tempo to those that came before it. The build of “Consuming Lies” musical crescendo defies forgetfulness, sticking with the listener throughout the album’s hour and forty minute run. The album’s closing piece, “Sick and Tired” culminates everything before it into a ambrosial, sixteen minute summary. Feelings of hope meld into psychedelia and wistful melancholy, but it stays stylistically true to the massive compositions before it.
The whole of A Pyrrhic Existence
’s portrait is a massive undertaking, rewarding those listeners with patience and keen ear and the canvas of its sound takes on new light depending on the moods associated with it. Moments of bleak emptiness are often met with thick colours of neutrality, but their musical lines stand clear and reaffirming. A Pyrrhic Existence
exists on a plane to which only a few groups have reached. With their 2019 effort, Esoteric not only keep funeral doom alive, but also reaffirms the genre’s undying vitality.