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Esoteric - "The Maniacal Vale" (2-CD Set)

Esoteric - "The Maniacal Vale" 2-CD Set cover image

"The Maniacal Vale" track listing:

Disc 1
1. Circle (20:45)
2. Beneath This Face (11:22)
3. Quickening (12:19)
4. Caucus of Mind (7:22)

Disc 2
1. Silence (15:45)
2. The Order of Destiny (11:33)
3. Ignotum Per Ignotius (22:43)

Reviewed by on March 9, 2010

"'The Maniacal Vale' is, without exception, one of the most exhausting albums I have ever listened to, but it was worth it."

Expertly navigating the funeral doom genre to create a unique and terrifying experience, Esoteric has poured their all into their latest release, a massive 2-disc behemoth known as “The Maniacal Vale.” Not relying on anything fancy like excessive synth work or clean female vocals, the band leans almost solely on their talent and experience. Simplicity is the key here, though we really hear the virtuoso shine through on the beautiful leads woven into the crushing, drawn out riffs. This album is by no means light fare; a straight listen through in one sitting is an exhausting experience indeed.

Starting out calmly with a beautiful lead, “Circle” begins the album into a slow, steady descent into madness. With powerful emotion packed into every lead, Esoteric weaves this beautiful work into the plodding rhythm work that isn’t quite a wall of sound, but is definitely full to the brim with substance and vigor. The song peaks with an intense climax, then fades out with beautiful dark ambience and some more typical funeral doom fare. Ambience seems to be a staple on this album, along with long, drawn out droning riffs that may be hard for some to digest but creates a unique, unforgettable atmosphere that sets Esoteric apart from most funeral doom.

The best part of the album is how well-rounded the song structures are. They all follow a fairly similar formula: soft intros, brutal, crushing peaks and dark ambient fadeouts with crushing conclusions. This may sound very boring and monotonous, but Esoteric really pulls it off. Besides the fact of the music itself being well-played, this ability to write songs with similar structures without coming off as repetitive is another testament to the skill of the musicians. Esoteric simply creates songs that are well written and have structures that work.

Even though most of this album is very slow, like most doom, Esoteric switches it up in some pretty unexpected moments. “Beneath This Face” leads to a climax that is rather fast-paced for funeral doom, even incorporating some blast beats. After listening to almost 40 minutes of slow, trudging doom, “Caucus of Mind” is very much unexpected and somewhat refreshing, as it is more of a death metal song with a curious old school sound than it is a doom track; where the beginning of this song is nearly straight up death metal, the end of it contains some of the best ambient noise on the album, providing for an excellent juxtaposition of brutality and utter darkness.” Ignotum per Ignotius,” the massive conclusion to this gargantuan album, sums up, in a way, Esoteric’s general sound. All of the typical elements are present without exception and is an utter beast of an ending track.

“The Maniacal Vale” is, without exception, one of the most exhausting albums I have ever listened to, but it was worth it. I would definitely call this album a masterpiece, and while non-doom fans may not appreciate it as much, fans of the genre will absolutely love and greedily consume this album time and time again.

Highs: No-frills doom that weaves incredible atmosphere through powerful leads and crushing riffs.

Lows: A long and somewhat exhausting listen.

Bottom line: A colossus of an album that sets the standard for what funeral doom should be.

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)