Funeral Doom Friday: In Remembrance of ESOTERIC's The Pernicious Enigma
It’s the weekend! What better way to get it started than with the latest installment of “Funeral Doom Friday”. This weekly column looks to shed some light onto some of the darkest, most depressing, and discordant metal out there. Funeral Doom stems from the deepest depths of death-doom and dirge music. Each week, my goal is to highlight some of the newest music or rediscover classic works from some of the earliest bands and originators such as Australia’s Mournful Congregation, United States’s Evoken, UK’s Esoteric and the Finnish Thergothon. Feel free to share your opinions and suggestions in the comments!
Forged in the same industrious city as heavy metal itself; Birmingham, England's Esoteric was born in 1992 and became a fundamental cog in the wheel of UK Funeral Doom and Death-Doom. The late eighties and early nineties saw the rise of UK acts like Esoteric, as well as Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride who worked to build such an ominous sound in England much like Black Sabbath did roughly twenty years prior. Esoteric slowed their tempo down to a much greater extent then their contemporaries and as a result became much more of a Funeral Doom band. They released an eight-song demo in 1993 entitled Esoteric Emotions – The Death of Ignorance before releasing their debut full-length album, Epistemological Despondency, in 1994 through Aesthetic Death Records. Roughly three years would pass before Esoteric would return. When the band did come back to release new music, it resulted in their biggest album still to this day.
The Pernicious Enigma is huge in run time, even for Funeral Doom. At almost two hours, it is admittedly a task to listen to, but a much rewarded endeavor for any Doom fan. Esoteric's sophomore full-length album sounds nearly orchestral and it took the size of a small orchestra to construct it. Greg Chandler (vocals/keyboards), Gordon Bicknell (guitars/synths/samples), Bryan Beck (bass), Steve Peters (guitars), Simon Phillips (guitars/samples), and Anthony Brewer (session drums) all played pivotal roles in creating The Pernicious Enigma. Two hours may seem like a daunting task to a listener, fortunately Esoteric's mastery for the genre assures one's attention stays affixed to every moment of the album. Samples of spoken word are woven into the fray of the album, like at the beginning of "Dominion of Slaves" and "Allegiance" and at multiple places throughout the rest of the songs.
Esoteric also blends the elements of Death Metal and Doom Metal effortlessly into each song. The instrumental track, "NOXBC9701040" (or as it is listed on their BandCamp page, "Illusion of Iniquitous Turpitude") is a great example of a perfectly blended song as swirling, deathly guitar riffs rise and retreat throughout the flow of the hypnotic, thirteen-minute dirge. It also transitions wonderfully into the following song, "Sinistrous", which drips in synths and is coated in a guttural growl from Chandler. "At War with the Race" is The Pernicious Enigma's shortest song and also a purely Death Metal song. It also gives a short moment to, ironically, catch your breath before being dragged down again into the final three tracks: "A Worthless Dream", "Stygian Narcosis", and the album's longest track, "Passing Through Matter".
Esoteric's second album is a huge moment in Funeral Doom and Death-Doom, both literally and figuratively. The Pernicious Enigma built on a dark and growing behemoth that would continue to reign in the same city as the forefathers themselves. Esoteric is approaching the quarter-century mark and have seen a sustained success over their almost twenty-five years of existence. They have released four more albums since The Pernicious Enigma, their most recent album being 2011's Paragon of Dissonance. There are also rumblings that the Birmingham Doomsayers have been working on their seventh studio album as well. Keep an ear to the ground or an eye to the computer screen to see what is next for Esoteric. In the meantime, set aside a couple of hours to revel in the gloomy beauty of The Pernicious Enigma.