Blast From The Past: Esoteric – The Maniacal Vale

You know, like a lot of men, I enjoy it fast and hard, but sometimes, just sometimes, I prefer it slow and deep, prolonged over an intense period of time. I’m talking, of course, about Metal (why, what did you think I was talking about?). What Esoteric manage to produce, is atmospheric extreme Doom Metal that just fits the bill perfectly. They were featured in the Weekly Dose of Metal recently, so I think it’s about time they were given the review treatment.

Make the jump to read the review of Esoteric’s latest album, The Maniacal Vale, released back in 2008.

Esoteric – The Maniacal Vale

===Disc 1===
1. “Circle” – 20:45
2. “Beneath This Face” – 11:21
3. “Quickening” – 12:18
4. “Caucus of Mind” – 7:21

===Disc 2===
5. “Silence” – 15:44
6. “The Order of Destiny” – 11:32
7. “Ignotum Per Ignotius” – 22:42

First, just take a look at that tracklist. Just seven tracks, yet two discs, and 101 minutes of music. Esoteric better have something pretty fucking special here if they want to keep me listening till the end. Thankfully, The Maniacal Vale proves to be crushing, punishing and brutally beautiful.

Esoteric, not to be confused with the 426,000 other bands also called Esoteric, are a UK Doom Metal band that have been on the go now for nearly 20 years. In that time they’ve released five albums, all of which are fantastic in their own right. This album, their latest, is the first to feature Joe Fletcher on drums and Mark Bodossian on Bass.

The Maniacal Vale opens with Circle, a twenty minute slow, brooding, and manically depressing piece of music. And depressing is good by the way, it’s by no means a criticism of the music. If I wanted something happy and upbeat, I’d listen to Glee or whatever other plastic bullshit is ‘in’ at the moment. As it happens though, I have more than two brain cells, so don’t feel the need to pollute my ears with that vulgar material. The track opens with slow, clean-ish, yet rough, playing guitar parts, reminiscent of some of Opeth or Cult of Luna’s early work. Circle slowly builds, with both bass and drums being added, before the addition of vocals to the mix, in the midst of keyboards adding stunning tone to the song. The vocals are highly distorted growls, similar in style to that of Death Metal, and work well with the depressing atmospheric instrumentals. Circle proves to be one of the most harmonious of the album, with a beautifully depressing melody being used to great effect.

As you can probably imagine, Esoteric’s songwriting is very progressive in nature, with the band beginning with simple ideas, and building and expanding on these, continuing through the music. It’s a very effective form of songwriting that works incredibly well on this album. Although each track, and The Maniacal Vale as a whole are incredibly long, the band always keep things fresh and interesting. Overall, what you get is music that is being perfected and refined as you’re listening to it, with the music taking the listener on a journey. First track Circle, for example, although begins with one basic idea, eventually leads into a melodic solo (I say solo, but don’t expect any epic shredding here), before moving into something entirely different. The track progresses and gets increasingly discordant and harsh as it goes on, before fading out to make way for the second track. The song writing is dynamic and diverse, producing a wide range of interesting ideas.

The album is cohesive, flowing from one track to the next, with a beginning, middle and end. The opening and closing tracks are both twenty minutes in length, whilst the other tracks are ten to fifteen minutes, and the middle track is the shortest at seven minutes. So hopefully you can see exactly what the band have done there. If you can’t, please head back to education. Each track is brilliant, and none out stay their welcome, despite the extended length.

Production wise, The Maniacal Vale is exceedingly strong, with each drum beat being crisp, and distinctive keyboard strings and synths adding much depth to the sound. Musically, I’d say the album is Doom Metal with the production of Black Metal. What I mean by this, it has atmospheric orchestral effects and tortuous, winding guitar parts, not that the whole band were recorded with one $5.99 mic in a graveyard to make it sound as shit as possible (ala early Darkthrone). Make no mistake; the production is possibly the strongest it’s ever been for Esoteric.

As a whole, The Maniacal Vale is a strong, powerful piece of work. Although there is a definite ‘sound’ to Esoteric’s music on display here, each song presents different moods from the others. The seven minute Caucus of Mind, for example, starts slow, but increasingly speeds up until it reaches a climatic crushing occurrence. This part of the music is Esoteric at their most manic, but it isn’t long before the song takes a different path and everything slows down to a moody dirge. Other tracks like Circle and Silence demonstrate a more melodic side to the band, whilst closing track Ignotum Per Ignotius brings the melodic, yet discordant nature of Esoteric’s music to a fitting conclusion. The band are skilful in always ensuring that they portray a wide range of dynamics to their music, and keep things fresh for the listener. At 1 hour and 40 minutes, it is a long album, one that certainly is a struggle to get through, but with it being split across two discs, you can listen to each as if they were two separate entities, if you so wish. Give The Maniacal Vale a fair chance however, and you may just discover one of the most best and most original albums in the Doom genre.

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