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Revitalizing Esoteric’s “The Pernicious Enigma”

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When we last talked with English funeral doom metal pioneers Esoteric in late 2017, vocalist and guitarist Greg Chandler reminisced on the band’s infancy. Considering the imbalance between psychedelic doom and death metal murk on their debut album Esoteric Emotions — The Death of Ignorance, Esoteric was at least aware of the style in which they would very quickly blossom. At the birth of the “funeral doom metal” style, Esoteric was already denying it, eschewing the purely suffocating misery in favor of balancing the heaviness of the death metal which inspired them with the expansive, drug-aided euphoria which led to the band’s formation.

Though the The Death of Ignorance demo can be hailed as a curiosity by established fans and doom metal historians alike, it is near-universally regarded that the band’s double-album sophomore effort The Pernicious Enigma was their first of many brushes with perfection. Listen to a remixed and remastered version of “Passing Through Matter” below.

At this point, funeral doom metal was more defined. Thergothon’s Stream to the Heavens had surfaced in Finland, Shape of Despair had released their first demo, and small rumblings from Poland’s Gallileous had already arisen and ceased, among many others in a global scene. Now was a chance to sharpen the style out of its early stages and develop a sense of individual personality, which is something Esoteric held close since their 1993 debut.

Expounding upon its immense presence and dark matter density, The Pernicious Enigma was both something entirely new and a greater fruition for Esoteric themselves. Instead of an ambitious balancing act like the album’s predecessors, this sophomore effort enfolded itself with its dual identities, melding ambient swathes of sound with death and doom metal’s hyperborean disgust. It was this album which truly defined Esoteric’s career, the band finding themselves after recording hours and hours of enterprising music of unique and dualistic character.

What makes the upcoming Aesthetic Death reissue of The Pernicious Enigma lies in the method through which it had been revived. Whereas the Death of Ignorance demo was merely remastered due to a lack of original source material, Greg Chandler still had the original Pernicious Enigma tapes. Armed with a completely new remix and remaster, this sounds like a completely new and revitalized album. Now even heavier and more spacious, there are pieces to the music which surface like ghosts to fans who understand the album back and forth.

Suddenly, there are more keyboards, thicker guitar tone… more guitars (Esoteric is, after all, a three-guitar band) — what was already an impossible album stretches itself past the brink. Already an incredible listen by current standards, it is amazing to think this was written and recorded in the mid-1990s. Had people heard this album with Chandler’s current mixing style, Esoteric’s legend status could have been attained that much sooner. Yours truly is not the biggest fan of crediting things to a proper mix, but listening to the original and this new remix side by side is a night-versus-day difference.

Those who already love The Pernicious Enigma and new Esoteric fans alike will find themselves surprised, if even taken aback by this magnificent album, both in treatment and execution. Suddenly, this album challenges itself as Esoteric’s crown jewel.

The remixed and remastered Pernicious Enigma double-CD digibook will be released August 24th on Aesthetic Death.

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