Khariot
Esoteric

As soon as the broodingly ominous opener of Khariot’s aptly titled Esoteric, “Astralign”, comes to a close, the sheer maddening chaos of “Hydra” makes it immediately apparent that Gavin Foo is not a very big fan of melody – at the very least, he’s made it a point to keep the use of it to a very austere minimum. Instead, he churns out riff after riff of abrasive, discordant note sequences that paint a picture of the inner workings of a decrepit, organ-grinding machine on the brink of collapse. Similarly, tempos are constantly kept at a kind of middle ground that isn’t quite breakneck enough for blastbeats nor moderate enough for “sikk gr00ves”, so Michael Rule frenziedly beats on the drums (well, mostly the snare… holy fuck there sure are a lot of snares here) with reckless abandon, suiting the haphazard nature of the riffing.

On top of that, there’s also Foo’s abstract bass work lurking beneath, as well as his hoarse, tormented growls (sometimes with generous vocoder applied). Thankfully, the mix (once again handled by Foo) is excellent, being thick and well-rounded, yet never impenetrable, in a very Menegrothian fashion. As an unintended side-effect, because at any one time there are probably like three guitar lines going off at once and everything can be heard so clearly, making sense of these riffs can turn out to be a very daunting task indeed.

Stylistically, Khariot’s best point of comparison would be the equally arcane musical explorations of Zealotry (in particular their 2013 debut, The Charnel Expanse). The key difference is that Zealotry’s songwriting is rooted in much more strongly in Immolation and Adramelech, while Khariot, as far as I know, cannot be traced back to… anything. Sure, you can hear some influence from Gorguts (the skronky mechanistic wailing of “Infinite, Intrinsic Eye” can attest to that), and maybe a bit of Portal, because of how both acts laugh in the face of concepts of melody and tempo. As the sum of its parts, however, Esoteric exists in a realm that is inhabited by nothing else.

As much as I respect Khariot for venturing boldly out into the unknown, I can’t help but prefer Zealotry’s balance between clinical claustrophobia and memorable, catchy riffing, mixed with a dash of old-school flavour. After listening to Esoteric, all I can hope to remember is parts of “Rephormulated Paradox” (easily the most well-written song on the record) or perhaps the avant-jazz jam of “A Guilty Conjecture”; the rest will most likely be lost in flurried turmoil. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to see death metal being taken in all sorts of bizarre directions, and Esoteric is no exception. I absolutely reviled Obscura on my first listen, but it’s now in my top ten of all time. Might Esoteric one day become the next Obscura? I don’t know, but it at least it’s got the name down.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Joseph Y
March 5th, 2015

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