The term “expansive” gets thrown around a lot when covering post metal because it goes to the core of what the genre tries to accomplish. By “stretching out” metal’s beat and adding lots of ambiance to it, post metal tries to lend it this ethereal, out of this world feeling of size or, in short, an expanse. This is also the genre’s biggest pitfall, as momentum, variety, and restraint are often sacrificed on the altar of the crushing, the overwhelming, and the drawn out. However, during post metal’s brief existence, The Moth Gatherer have been at the top of the list of bands who can pull off the style with artistry and elegance. Coming hot off the heels of the lauded The Earth is the Sky (2015), as well as an EP release, Esoteric Oppression attempts to recapture the ambitions that lie in the center of post metal.
And it succeeds in doing that through a clever use of heaviness, haunting guitar tones and a cleverly condensed run-time. All of the five tracks but the last one clock under ten minutes, making it a shorter exploration for the truly massive run-times this genre can produce. This allows Esoteric Oppression to hit hard and keep hitting, keeping ideas fresh in the listener’s mind when the next iteration comes around to hit them from a different direction. “Utopia” is probably the best example of this; bearing resemblance to post metal luminaries The Ocean, this track has a meaty outro that breaks out the groove in the form of a nasty riff. Because the build up to it has been relatively short, the entire track running at just under seven minutes, the lethargic sense of the track clashes very well with the impudence of the closing riff.
Other highlights of this style include the addition of backing vocals to the first track, “The Drone Kingdom”. While one of the longer tracks on the album, it’s still under ten minutes, and by the time these captivating and brilliant sounds emerge nearer its end, they do so in the context of all that came before. Especially worthy of comments are the excellent guitar tones used on this track (and throughout the album), chunky vibes blending very well with the more lofty clean vocals nearer the end. This blend creates that certain “tension” that is so often associated with post metal, as the listener is buffeted by emotive heights and punishing lows at the same time.
Like all good iterations of post metal, it might take you a while to unpack this album but it’s well worth the effort to do so. Unlike too many of its brethren, it displays an impressive ability to take its time and get to the point exactly when it is time for it to do so. Perhaps this is owed to the more than ten years that The Moth Gatherer have been in operation, honing their control of the post metal template to a level shared by few other bands. Whatever the reason, Esoteric Oppression ends up being another worthy addition to one of the genre’s more impressive discographies and a great journey into the sounds, themes, and moods that good post metal can evoke.
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Esoteric Oppression releases on February 22nd (that’s tomorrow) through the excellent Agonia Records. You can pre-order it via the Bandcamp link above.