Rebounding from a devastating fire last year, THE ESOTERIC come back with a strange and interesting sophomore album. They're one of those bands where, upon first listen, you think "shit, I've already heard this a hundred times." Then you really give it some thought, and realize no one's put it together quite this way before. It may be based on COALESCE-style screaming metalcore, but there are elements of FAILURE, VOIVOD, and CAVE-IN mixed into their wide, expansive sound.
At their best, THE ESOTERIC employ big weird chords, lots of minor keys, propulsive rhythms and a frenzied, if slightly monotonous, vocal assault. The guitars really set the band apart, with disquieting Piggy-like lines and lots of hard-driving, frantic riffs creating a tense, wild-eyed vibe. To carry the comparison further, "Science Is Sexy" has a very "Negatron"-esque vibe, from the vocals to the harsh start-stop guitars. It'd take a pretty jaded scenester not to be moved by the sweeping guitar hook in "Language Is a Virus", and the juxtaposition of angry thrash with otherworldly riffing in "Shipyards of Foreign Cities" is flat-out awesome.
Unfortunately, a good chunk of the second half drags, redeemed only on closer "Clone Culture and the Cut-Up Method". If THE ESOTERIC could maintain the atmosphere of the first few tracks for an entire record, they'd be serious contenders – as it is, "Subverter" is a solid but ultimately uneven exercise in extreme metal off the beaten path. The band clearly has their head in the right place, and seem poised to ultimately rise above the glut of current metal that could potentially bury this record in indifference. Here's hoping they get the chance to continue evolving, because "Subverter" is a great starting point.
A solid 7, with isolated moments of heady 9-like brilliance worth riding out the dull patches for.