Funeral doom metal is quite possibly the most obscure and inaccessible extreme metal subgenre that exists. That’s not surprising, since funeral doom metal is notorious for having incredibly slow tempos, very lengthy and repetitive compositions, inhumanly low guttural vocals and a very depressive and pessimistic atmosphere, making the genre almost impossible to digest, even for avid doom metal listeners. Clearly, this kind of music is not for everyone and can only appeal to an extremely limited number of people, and if it does it is difficult to distinguish any notable bands, since most of them sound an awful lot similar to each other.

England’s Esoteric are one of the first and longest running funeral doom metal bands, with a career spanning almost 20 years, and have managed to be highly consistent through all this time, never failing to meet expectations and always trying to evolve musically. Their music style also has always been quite distinctive, setting them apart from other bands of the same category. Esoteric’s style of funeral doom is characterized by a complex multilayered sound and makes extensive use of slow atmospheric, almost jazzy lead guitar melodies and calmer clean guitar passages. This gives the band a very claustrophobic but also at times quite psychedelic feel, as opposed to the gothic and mostly keyboard driven style of say Thergothon or Skepticism.

“Paragon of Dissonance” is Esoteric’s 6th full length release. It is a double album with a duration of about 90 minutes, and the majority of the album tracks exceed the 15 minute mark. The first side opens with the massive “Abandonment” and hits the listener immediately with a crushing death metal riff and double bass drums at the beginning, then slowing down to a crawling pace and letting the guitar melodies take the leading role, and afterwards moving to an atmospheric clean guitar passage that gradually builds up, leading to the song’s final climactic part. The second track, “Loss of Will” has a much more simplistic approach than the previous track, with mournful guitar melodies and piano lines dominating the song, while the drumming keeps a steady and sluggish tempo all the way through without changing. The following “Cipher” has a faster pace compared to the previous tracks, and features the catchiest riffs and melodies of the album. This song is again straightforward, with the tension steadily building up until the song’s finale, where the singer’s horrifying screams echo until the song slowly fades out. These tracks are the best representatives of the album, although there are other strong tracks as well, such as “Non Being” and “Disconsolate”, both of them having quite complex structures and numerous tempo changes and dynamic shifts.

The truth is that it is quite difficult to distinguish each track from the beginning, as the songs do not follow a specific pattern and the transitions take place so slowly that even the most experienced listeners will find it hard to tell the difference at first. Each track is an endless maze of twisted soundcapes and gives the listener the impression of being sucked in a void of unfathomed terror, with the calmer passages within the songs serving only as brief moments of relief before plunging again deeper into the chaos. The whole atmosphere of the album is so immersive, that the listener cannot do anything but sit paralyzed and let the music take control of his senses, enabling him to come in touch with a force that is beyond understanding, a force that originates from the darkest and bleakest aspects of the human soul.

To put it simply, “Paragon of Dissonance” is funeral doom masterpiece! It possesses exactly the atmosphere that a funeral doom metal album should have, while having enough diversity to add that extra something that makes it sound so captivating. “Paragon of Dissonance” is undoubtedly the most focused and mature offering of Esoteric, and the band proves once again why they are masters of their kind. Fans of funeral doom and doom metal in general should definitely seek out this album, and while it may be hard to get into at first, with a few patient and close listens it will eventually start making sense and then the power of the album will be truly realized.

Track List Line Up
Disc 1
01. Abandonment
02. Loss of Will
03. Cipher
04. Non Being
Disc 2
01. Aberration
02. Disconsolate
03. A Torrent of Ills

Greg Chandler: Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Mark Bodossian: Bass
Joe Fletcher: Drums
Jim Nolan: Guitars, Keyboards