Esoteric - The Pernicious Enigma (1997)Release ID: 1870

Esoteric - The Pernicious Enigma (1997) Cover
Ben Ben / January 17, 2019 / Comments 0 / 1

A monolithic and demanding journey, but one that offers unrivalled riches for those willing to make it.

The period after Esoteric released their jaw dropping debut album Epistemological Despondency was a testing one for these pioneering Brits. Keeping a band together that contains no less than six members is no doubt challenging, and it’s made even more so when the band in question plays what can only be described as a combination of psychedelic funeral doom and death metal. When Stuart (one of the band’s three guitarists) and Darren (drummer) decided to leave Esoteric, you’d have to think they’d be hard pressed to find suitable replacements given the completely off the wall nature of their music. They soon did however, with Steve Peters joining on guitar and some guy called Anthony filling in on drums. With this hurdle out of the way (at least temporarily), Esoteric began touring Europe, where unfortunately their run of bad luck continued. Not only was this tour cut short when their newly recruited guitarist received a serious leg injury, but a quick-fire tour of the UK in June 1995 was also derailed after only two shows when the band’s equipment was destroyed when their van blew up. Not surprisingly, the band thought it better not to travel anywhere for a while and instead began preparations for their second full length studio album.

I’d say those preparations would have taken quite some time too, as the resulting album is an absolute monster. Esoteric’s demo tape in 1993 ran for an astonishing 77 minutes and yet their debut album in 1994 easily surpassed it totally over 88. The Pernicious Enigma only has nine tracks in total, yet still manages to run for a concentration testing 115 minutes! You’ll want to make sure you’re well versed in funeral doom and fully prepared before settling in for nearly two hours of horrifically dark and at times utterly insane music. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that I have no issue with the length of Esoteric’s previous works, and the monolithic dimensions of The Pernicious Enigma don’t overly concern me either. After all, I like to listen to my music in solitude, preferably on headphones, and if an album is amazing enough, I’d be happy for it to continue indefinitely to make the experience more encompassing. The problem only arises when tracks, and therefore albums, waft on endlessly without direction or structural intrigue. Somehow, despite all but one track (the three-minute death metal outburst At War With the Race) on The Pernicious Enigma reaching past the ten minute barrier, Esoteric manage to keep me completely engrossed for almost the entire time.

I say almost because there are certainly a few sections here or there that come close to crossing the boredom line, particularly during NOXBC9701040, which is nearly thirteen minutes of improvised madness. I’m not sure how you really improvise when using a drum machine (which four of the tracks on The Pernicious Enigma do due to Anthony not being able to grasp the necessary time signatures), but the result speaks for itself. For most of the album though, the swirling, labyrinthine structures are filled with so much tormented wonder that the lack of concrete composition just doesn’t come into play. The opening two tracks, Creation (Through Destruction) and Dominion of Slaves, are both incredibly beautiful tracks that showcase the completely bizarre and immensely sinister nature of Esoteric’s music. Greg’s growls and screams are gut wrenchingly brutal, and when combined with the alien quality of the melodies and accompanying symphonic soundscapes, make for a harrowing yet absorbing experience. The commitment required to fully enjoy Esoteric’s world is something only a select few will be willing to give, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if The Pernicious Enigma has scared the hell out of quite a few uninitiated wanderers over the years. For those of us that successfully make the journey, repeat trips reveal a wealth of treasures.

Daniel Daniel / July 22, 2022 / Comments 0 / 0

When I first heard English funeral doom masters Esoteric's highly regarded sophomore album "The Pernicious Enigma" back in the day I found myself struggling with various different elements. There's no doubt that the production job could have been much better & that was my main obstacle however I also found the continuous wave of layered vocals & the extreme length of this release (i.e. a 115 minute double album of funeral doom metal can be daunting at the best of times) to be a challenge. Since that time Esoteric have become one of my absolute favourite bands though & this revisit has seen the penny finally dropping for me with everything the band were trying to achieve now being hungrily lapped up by this fussy ol' bastard.

That's not to say that "The Pernicious Enigma" is a perfect record(s) by any means. The occasional use of more up-tempo sections are nowhere near as effective as the rest of the material with the short industrial death metal piece "At War With the Race" failing to meet expectations. There are a few attempts at off-beat drumming that don't really stick the landing either & the fact that they've had to resort to using a drum machine for a few tracks tells a pretty clear story about fill-in drummer Anthony Brewer's talents. Nonetheless, the consistency with which Esoteric are able to deliver wonderfully monstrous masterpieces of psychedelic depravity is unprecedented & one needs only take a cursory glance at the likes of "Dominion of Slaves" or "Sinistrous" to realise how all-encompassing that idea can be when all the planets align. The incorporation of a diverse array of influences also helps to free the band from the strict stylistic confines of the funeral doom metal genre with Godflesh style industrial moments & slowly building post-metal build-ups proving to be invaluable assets here along with Esoteric's inimitable penchant for mind-expanding psychedelia.

Esoteric are untouched in their field & even a thin production job where the rhythm guitars have nowhere near the weight that they deserve is not enough to stop them from looking down on the competition from their funeral thrones while we bask in yet another glorious procession of unwavering doom.

For fans of Evoken, Thergothon & Skepticism.


Release info

Release Site Rating

Ratings: 7 | Reviews: 2


Release Clan Rating

Ratings: 6 | Reviews: 2


Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 6


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 6

The Pernicious Enigma
The Fallen
Doom Metal

Funeral Doom Metal

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