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Esoteric - A Pyrrhic Existence Award winner

A Pyrrhic Existence
by Martin Knap at 02 December 2019, 7:32 PM

To say that ESOTERIC are a seminal band in Funeral Doom is by no means an exaggeration. Founded in Birmingham in 1992 they are not only pioneers of the genre, but original and innovative musicians in their own right. During almost three decades of activity they’ve put out five studio albums, the latest one, “A Pyrrhic Existence”, has been released eight years after previous album “Paragon of Dissonance”. The band is not churning out an album every two years, but everything they’ve released so far is monumental in the truest sense of the word. Many of their albums are double albums with play-time around one hour and a half. The band managed to evolve their sound over the years and brings something new to the table with each album.

As for their sound, the band is far on the extremity spectrum – Metal doesn’t get much more dense and impenetrable than this – but their music is by no means one-dimensional or dull. It’s by no means a hook-driven kind of music, but the music doesn’t lack good riffs and lead guitar melodies. The different sections of the songs gradually build up from minimalist, repetitive riffs, slowly reaching intense peaks, or there is a “descending” feel to the music – like sliding into some hellish gorge. The music is layered and buildups are truly monumental, awe inspiring at times, the intense peaks can feel very visceral, the tranquil parts have an Ambient or Drone-like quality.  The songs are captivating, hypnotic, and even have a kind of psychedelic edge, the closer “Culmination” in particular has a section that sounds like KING CRIMSON or PINK FLOYD in their trippiest moments.

“A Pyrrhic Existence” is a massive album with a play-time of over an hour and a half. There are six tracks in total, one of which is an ambient interlude, so the songs are obviously very long, just the opener “Descend” is almost half an hour long. The song has an ominous vibe in the beginning and becomes gradually more shrill and abrasive, then the vibe gets mellow, almost weepy, but this gives way to a powerful riff and emotional lead melodies. There are tranquil parts, but also parts that are visceral and thunderous. One section here stands out in particular in which the mellow guitar is interrupted by loud, distorted strums, there isn’t a gradual buildup, but a sudden, powerful outburst.  In “Rotting in Dereliction” a section with a groovy, galloping rhythm segues into a fast part with fierce, chaotic soloing and vocals. In “Culmination” venture full-on into a Psychedelic Rock territory: there is a section with a nice Hard Rock groove, but it gets gradually more discordant until it starts feeling disquieting. Many moments on this album feel like a descend into lunacy and this is very much one of them.

“A Pyrrhic Existence” is an excellent addition to an illustrious discography. ESOTERIC yet again don’t fail to deliver emotional, captivating record full of interesting musical ideas. The album is like a sonic labyrinth full of magnificent chambers that is always a pleasure to wander in.

Songwriting: 9
Memorability: 8
Musicianship: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Descent
2. Rotting in Dereliction
3. Antim Yatra
4. Consuming Lies
5. Culmination
6. Sick and Tired
Gordon Bicknell - Guitars, Keyboards
Greg Chandler - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Mark Bodossian - Bass
Joe Fletcher - Drums
Jim Nolan - Guitars, Keyboards
Record Label: Season of Mist


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