The Maniacal Vale

For most bands, releasing a double disc studio album comprised of solely new material, and clocking in at an hour and a half, would be an amazing feat. But for England’s extreme doom gods, Esoteric, this is just another day in the park. In fact, it’s not the first time they’ve released a two disc album, and it’s not even the longest (that would be The Pernicious Enigma at around two hours in length). However, The Maniacal Vale shows even more depth and maturity, which continues in the same style as 2004’s Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum.

Perhaps the most immediate difference is the production. Though not as meaty or bottom heavy as past albums, it’s more focused. The drums (played by new member, Joe Fletcher), though still cavernous in typical doom fashion, are clear and precise. He shows off some impressive chops, most notably in the death metal onslaught of “Caucus of Mind”. The vocals are also more upfront. As opposed to previous efforts, which sometimes required straining to hear, now all you must do it lie back and let Greg Chandler’s growls and rasps corrode your ear drums. The clearer production also lets the subtle electronic nuances be heard with little trouble. On The Pernicious Enigma, the soundscape was often clouded with buzzes and whirls, and sometimes felt as though all the instruments were fighting to be heard. Though it was a desirable effect in its own right, the clarity of this release is certainly welcome. That’s not to say the electronics are dumbed down. They’re refined, to deal out an even greater effect, embellishing transitions in the brilliant songwriting, and sometimes creating those often needed ambient moments of fog.

Speaking of songwriting, this is definitely their most mature and well thought out release to date. Listening to this album start to finish is a harrowing experience, but only due to the extreme emotional content. Though pretty slow for most of the album (it is doom, after all), and some moments that are almost still, it always feels like the music is going somewhere. The Maniacal Vale ebbs and flows like the universe itself: slowly and without end. A continuous thread of constant change. Moments of beauty gradually morph into tumultuous aggression, like watching a storm slowly build, run its course and then die. They seem to have taken just a little from post-rock. Listen to the slow building introduction to “Circle” and tell me that doesn’t sound like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They’ve also added some very useful accelerandi. Listen to any of the build ups in “Beneath This Face”, “Caucus of Mind”, or “Silence”. Esoteric prove that speed can mean so much more when built up from a deathly slow tempo. There are some amazingly beautiful and majestic melodies scattered throughout, as well as some truly crushing moments (which I sometimes feel could have used a little more bottom heavy production, though only a minor thought). Not to mention the few, but powerful, guitar solos. Check out “Caucus of Mind” or “The Order of Destiny” for those gems.

I could try and give a track by track run down of this album, but it would take forever, and I don’t think much could be gained from it. That would be somewhat like trying to describe a Salvador Dali painting, in that you must actually experience it. If you’re a fan of any kind of doom, you owe it to yourself to get this album. Even if you once thought the more extreme side wasn’t for you, I’d be willing to bet this might change your mind. The Maniacal Vale will surely be on a lot of year end lists. It’ll be at the top of mine.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Belgarath
July 22nd, 2008


  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    “That would be somewhat like trying to describe a Salvador Dali painting, in that you must actually experience it.”

    good line, great review. I have been enjoying this album (after your rec on the boards).

  2. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    Love this album – one of my favorite recent doom releases

  3. Commented by: xbenx

    Amazing album. Amazing band, I was listening to this at work yesterday (and in fact, I am going to put it on now)and was getting some odd looks. Great review, truly captures and conveys the unique entity that is Esoteric.

  4. Commented by: Vance

    This is my absolute favorite genre of extreme metal, bands like Esoteic, Evoken, Dead in the Water, Dolorean, have a way of weaving great atmosphere and creating some heavy emotional stuff.

    Great review!!!

  5. Commented by: vu~

    This album is truly a frightening experience for me. I have it for 2 months now and I still have yet to be able to listen to it in its entirety in one sitting. Trust me, I wouldn’t suggest this album to anyone who’s depressed. They might really do something awful to themselves. God, this is just absolutely devastating art.

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