Esoteric unload mammoth serving of doom on ‘Paragon of Dissonance’

I’ve never traveled to the U.K., and from the sound of some of their doom metal, I’m not I sure want to go. I feel like spending time there may make me too aware of my inner strife, and I get a healthy enough dose of that living where I do now, in the relatively benign Northeastern U.S.

Take some bands such as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema, among others, and you’d probably be left wondering if the entire land’s population should be on some kind of anti-depressant. Yet, the music is riveting, memorable and relatable, especially for those of us who find ourselves under a black cloud now and again. Another act that should be on that last is long-standing doom/death band Esoteric, who have been making pulverizing, anguished funeral-style metal for years. Their latest album “Paragon of Dissonance” is yet another that won’t raise your spirits or leave you giddy with joy, but if you enjoy their calculated, deliberate assault, you’ll love every moment of this mammoth.

And it is a whale of a collection, spread over two discs and lasting more than an hour and a half combined. Then again, their last full-length, 2008’s “The Maniacal Vale,” also was two discs long at about 100 minutes, so folks already into this band know what’s in store. Prepare to be fully stuffed with extreme doom when it’s all over, and don’t worry about saving room for dessert. Also, if you were intrigued by our piece on Mournful Congregation and decided to buy those records, you might want to consider “Paragon of Dissonance” as well because it goes hand in hand quite nicely with the Australian band’s emissions.

Only vocalist/guitarist Greg Chandler remains from the band’s 1992 formation, and he’s joined by bassist Mark Bodossian (around since 2003), guitarist Jim Nolan (who debuts on this album), guitarist Gordon Bicknell, and drummer Joe Fletcher (on board since 2007) on “Paragon of Dissonance.” While it might seem like a lot of material to absorb, and it is, they aren’t outdone by their ambition. Truth be told, if you played this whole thing at a few speeds faster than Esoteric delivers it, you might be able to get through it in an hour or so. That’s just how drubbingly slowly these guys deliver these songs. It’s exactly how it should be, too.

Disc one opens up with “Abandonment,” a crushing, melodic and hulking piece that has its fair share of melody and eventually drowns out in a storm cloud of noise. “Loss of Will,” a somber, moving entry, is the shortest of the entire collection at 7:16, and the song drips with pain and suffering that you can feel through your skin. “Cipher” has a watery opening that takes some time to bleed over, and eventually Chandler’s monstrous growls take control as noise and ambiance hang in the air like a fog. The disc is capped off with “Non-Being,” a cut that has a psychedelic edge at times, not unlike some of Pink Floyd’s edgier moments, and it slowly sizzles and shakes, at moments taking on power metal-flavored riffs and at others trickling into calm waters and the unfurling canopies of dusk. This first disc alone would be enough to make “Paragon of Dissonance” worth your investment, but alas, there is more.

“Aberration” is the airiest, least direct song on the whole album, which is not a criticism. It lets your mind wander and your body absorb the darkness that’s ahead on the rest of the disc. “Disconsolate” is the angriest, most aggressive song here, as it begins with the band’s trademark trudging-through-mud pace but eventually blows up into some monstrous thrashing, fiery guitar work, and metallic fireworks that helps counter the otherwise somber atmosphere. “The Torrent of Ills” slithers as slowly as any song on here, or in the rest of their catalog, but it’s nothing less than suffocating and punishing, eventually tapping out to a tidal wave of ambient hiss and barbaric noise. It just bleeds and bleeds until there’s nothing left to give.

Esoteric strangely don’t have that high a profile in the United States, and their style of doom/death does seem to be more of a niche style. But that’s too bad, because there’s so much emotion and anguish here that, while it might not fill you with sunshine and flowers, it should help you address and conquer your dark side. Isn’t that what metal’s supposed to be about anyway? Hopefully more people take advantage of this band’s incredible output and their spectacular new record “Paragon of Dissonance.” It’s funeral-style doom metal the way it’s supposed to be done, and they remain one of the sub-genre’s go-to acts.

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