Esoteric - No Funeral
By: David E. Gehlke
Geographic neighbors to My Dying Bride and long-running proponents of the funeral doom style, the U.K.'s Esoteric have long made their sorrowful bed...and have slept in it soundly. The band has been a stabilizing force in the doom scene's bleak underground for two decades, having hit its full stride via 2008's The Maniacal Vale, an album that saw lavish praise and critical blessings come in droves. It was a perfunctory moment for mainman Greg Chandler, who has navigated Esoteric through several lineup changes and an evolving musical climate. Yet Chandler and Esoteric prove to be ever the forward-thinking lot on their new Paragon of Dissonance (Season of Mist), taking their sound a few steps further, and outside of the traditional funeral doom realm on the momentous "Non Being" and "Disconsolate." It's a bold move for a band working within the confines of a scene that generally abstains from change. It's probably why Esoteric has been able to hang around for so long.
With all of this hanging on Blistering's noggin', we hit Chandler up for a round of questions to get the scoop on the success of The Maniacal Vale, what went into Paragon of Dissonance, and what lies ahead for one of the U.K.'s most unheralded and enduring acts. Read on...
Blistering.com: The band will be 20 years old next year. Is that hard to fathom?
Greg Chandler: Well, to be honest I havenít really thought about it much. Itís certainly gone quickly. I think I always felt from the start that the band would last and I still havenít lost any of the passion for doing it. Weíd like to do something to mark the anniversary, but not sure what at the moment. If we could get over to the U.S. to tour that would be good.
Blistering.com: Along the way, what are some of the moments that stick out for you the most?
Chandler: Some of the shows weíve played and places we visited have been quite memorable in particular. Playing Finland with Skepticism in 2009 was great and Russia with Swallow the Sun, Brutal Assault in Czech, with bands like Carcass, Madrid is the Dark in Spain, Belgium Doom Night, and so on.
Blistering.com: Youíve experienced some lineup changes earlier last decade. How would you stack this lineup against your previous incarnations?
Chandler: Personally I think the current line-up is the strongest weíve ever had in terms of musicianship and experience. Itís been improving with time and I think a big difference was made when Joe Fletcher joined the band on drums in 2007. It was the first time in our history that we had a good drummer who was a permanent member of the band, not just session.
Blistering.com: How tiring is it to keep swapping members?
Chandler: Pretty tiring. But itís important to try not to get demoralized and to actively look for a good replacement. The real downside is that it slows down progress, because although we always carry on rehearsing, it takes time to integrate new members and also makes it hard to plan gigs.
Blistering.com: The Maniacal Vale was quite the success. Were you prepared for the outpouring of critical and consumer reception?
Chandler: We were quite surprised by the fact that the album seemed to be quite well received by the media. We write pretty extreme, inaccessible music and I think weíre better known than we are liked because itís not something that most people will want to experience too often.
Blistering.com: People may not realize that you had been around for quite some time before then. From what you recall, was the album peopleís introduction to Esoteric?
Chandler: Itís hard for me to say really. As a member of the band I only really get to hear direct feedback from listeners and friends, I donít really go on forums or look out for what people are saying. But from what I do get to see, it seems to vary. I think with each album new people are introduced to the band, but The Maniacal Vale did get good coverage and I think it was down to the guys at Season of Mist, really.
Blistering.com: Paragon of Dissonance is quite the heaving beast, like its predecessor. Because itís on two discs, is it meant to be experienced in one sitting?
Chandler: Thereís no prescribed method of listening to it. If you want to really submerge yourself in it, then yes, listen loud or on headphones in a dark room so that no visual elements distract the thoughts or senses. However itís pretty long in one sitting, so whatever suits.
Blistering.com: What type of lyrical themes run through the album?
Chandler: The lyrics are quite bleak overall. Dealing with the deeper, darker recesses of the mind, emotions and thoughts, experiences and so on. Sometimes introspective, sometimes observational.
Blistering.com: Your style of doom is a bit more digestible than some of your contemporaries. Why do you think that is?
Chandler: Itís hard to say as I donít really compare, I just take each band on its own merits. Iím never really interested in what style or genre of music that Iím listening to, just whether it moves me and am something I can relate to or find pleasure from in some way. There are many elements and sounds, changes and atmospheres within our music that can help to keep it interesting if you like the music in general, so you can still find something new to listen to within the soundscape even after hearing it many times.
Blistering.com: Many will say the funeral doom sound is limiting, yet you find ways to push it in new directions. Do you ever tire of the ďfuneral doomĒ tag, and if so, what are your overall thoughts of the style?
Chandler: Well, when we first started releasing music people were generally telling us we were not doom and the term funeral doom didnít exist. It doesnít matter what kind of music you play, if you transcend boundaries in some way you will still be put into one category that seems most fitting. It doesnít really matter to us what we are perceived as, we just do what we do and let other people worry about classification, etc.
Blistering.com: Youíve come up through the British doom scene and have experienced the various highs and lows. Do you think your sound is still a product of your surroundings?
Chandler: I think itís something thatís a part of us and is a result of the sounds and music we like to hear and express. External influences, surroundings, environment may creep in, but the aim is at least to try and create something that is personal to us and is heavily stamped with our own character and style.
Blistering.com: Finally, whatís on the agenda going into 2012?
Chandler: At the moment we are rehearsing and preparing to play live next year. We have a few things in the pipeline, Finland in February and further shows in Europe to follow in spring. We will announce them as they are confirmed. And weíll start writing material for the next album.