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Esoteric : Paragon of Dissonance

Esoteric have created another masterpiece of Psychedelic Doom which holds a few surprises.

The Doom scene has delivered a considerable number of outstanding releases in 2011 so far. But for many – including myself – these releases will weigh little against the announcement of a new Esoteric double album coming out – one might even be so daring to say that an album of theirs alone could easily have compensated for an otherwise disappointing year. This British band has been a special and unique phenomenon ever since their crushing debut album Epistemological Despondency saw the light of day in 1994, and none of their outputs has ever disappointed fans in terms of intensity and fascinating experimentalism. Esoteric have always widely disregarded the current tendencies within the scene; instead, they consistently pursued their idiosyncratic sound without any bigger compromises. Still, experience with other classic bands in any genre shows that even the most convincing artists often reach a point in their development where you cannot follow them anymore. This is why we tend to be all the more anxious (in both senses) to hear a new release the more a band means to us. Let me lift this weight from you now: Paragon of Dissonance does not disappoint at all. On the contrary, it is loaded with great, fresh ideas and will probably be seen by many as one of the best albums in the band’s career.

Even though the Brits remain true to their path once more, their new album holds quite a number of surprises and changes. The opening track “Abandonment” confronts the listener with some of these changes right away as though it was supposed to make clear that the band was back with a whole lot of ambitious creativity this time. The song dives into a fairly fast and – dare I say it? – lively riff without any introduction, and there are so many dynamic changes going on in the first few minutes that it may be hard to believe this is the same band that recorded the towering walls of sound in tracks like “Grey Day” – if it wasn’t for the menacing atmosphere and trademark psychedelic guitar work. Of course, the band is not quite the same after all, considering the line-up changes they have undergone in the past few years. These changes in personnel certainly account for parts of the musical developments. Keyboardist Olivier Goyer has moved back to France in the meantime, and their third guitarist Kris Clayton has now been replaced by Jim Nolan who is doing an excellent job and already makes some great contributions to songwriting. Joe Fletcher, having already played the drums on The Maniacal Vale (2008), is now beginning to unfold his full potential, playing lots of original and technically impressive patterns and fills which add a good deal of complexity to the compositions.

With its tendency towards more dynamic, less consistently “doomy” songwriting, Paragon of Dissonance clearly transcends its predecessors, proving that Esoteric are far from having exhausted their potential and still ready to try something new. Apart from that, they pursue some of the developments found on The Maniacal Vale, but in a more mature and convincing way this time. The overwhelming dissonance and hypnotic undertow of Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum (2004) has been given up in favour of melody, atmosphere and a rather polished sound, making the music much more accessible than before. From this angle, the album title might seem slightly misleading.

It also comes as no surprise that the songwriting, again, is more structured than on earlier albums; while still very complex, the arrangements are clearly broken up into separate parts most of the time, making it easier to follow. With “Loss of Will”, there is even a relatively short song (seven minutes), presenting in miniature format the most despondent mood found in any Esoteric song. The new approach to song structures allows for stronger contrasts within songs – this time, there are actual breaks with clean guitars and distinctive bass lines, and even some piano passages sneak into the sound from time to time. There is also a clear Post-Rock influence in the form of long-winded passages slowly building up over several minutes with more and more elements condensing the sound.

Of course, all of this takes away some of the fascination of the above mentioned 2004 masterpiece and does not allow for such a deep immersion into the otherworldly atmosphere anymore, but on the other hand, these developments are also (and primarily) a gain, altogether renewing the experience of Esoteric’s music and perfecting a new direction that has only been hinted at before. Whereas The Maniacal Vale suffered from some passages in which the complexity and longevity seemed slightly forced, everything is right in place on this new double album. In fact, the arrangements are devised with such prowess and refinement that listeners will always eagerly anticipate the next note. “Disconsolate” on CD 2 deserves special highlighting here, a song with such an excellent arrangement that it is a sheer delight to listen to, and emotionally gripping from beginning to end.

Despite the obvious changes, the band’s trademark sound remains unmistakable. The typical slow riffs still make up the better part of the album after all, complete with meandering lead guitars of high technical sophistication and sundry psychedelic guitar effects which are crucial to the trance-like, at times almost psychotic atmosphere. There is an eagerness to experiment which has not been heard since The Pernicious Enigma, and this classic from 1997 actually comes to mind more than once, especially on the second CD. Thus, Paragon of Dissonance has a lot to offer to old fans, too, consisting in equal parts of traditional elements as well as new, highly interesting developments.

Esoteric have once again created a very special musical gem you should not miss.

Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
CD 1
1. Abandonment
2. Loss of Will
3. Cipher
4. Non Being
CD 2
1. Aberration
2. Disconsolate
3. A Torrent of Ills

Duration : Approx. 94 minutes

Visit the Esoteric bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-12-11 by Dominik Sonders
No God Only Pain
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