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Esoteric : The Pernicious Enigma (Remix)

Perhaps the deepest, darkest and most enveloping of all of Esoteric's sonic terrorist explorations, now available in lovely CD digibook format as well as on vinyl.

Well, now: just a couple of years back my colleague Kris went into a great deal of depth, including linked interviews, over Aesthetic Death's release of the lush triple-LP vinyl remaster of this very album. And I encourage reading it - for reasons that will become obvious, I don't plan to go into anything like such comprehensive detail. Anyway, I did actually ignore his closing advice, and didn't buy it - maybe a mistake, but I'm still waiting for the threatened full boxed set luxury vinyl edition of the whole Esoteric back catalogue...

In the meantime, I've soldiered on with just my original CD copies for company. Well, no more! - at least in the case of 'The Pernicious Enigma'. Following last year's re-release of the 'Esoteric Emotions' demo in deluxe digibook format, Aesthetic Death have pushed the boat out in similar fashion, housing this double CD in a handsome and solid package. The booklet retains the original artworks and lyrics, but with enough space for each to occupy a page, rather having the lyrics printed over the art, as well as adopting more uniform typefaces. Small touches, perhaps, taken individually, but it does add up to a real quality presentation (though it does - perhaps for old times' sake - still retain the mismatch where track 4 is titled 'NOΞBX9701040' within the booklet and 'NOΞBC9701040' in the tracklisting. And, if you're particularly fascinated by versioning details, you might also notice that the Esoteric cover logo has been changed to the more familiar modern one, while the original titling of the CDs as DISC III and DISC IV has been dropped).

Anyway, nice (or possibly OCD) as it is to have all of those little details to pore over, and fantastic as the release format is, perhaps the most important thing is that you're getting the full-fat remix and remaster that went into the vinyl version, taken directly from the original recordings and tweaked to match the way Greg always wanted it to sound. And, without a doubt - now hearing it for the first time, given that I did disobey Kris's admonition - that absolutely nails the combination of improving punchiness and clarity, without sacrificing any of the schizoid trippiness or morbid oppression of the original. It's just as powerfully foreboding and compelling in its captivating darkness, but with all of the cobwebs and minor niggles blown away completely. Frankly, all remixes should aspire to this sort of perfection.

It's hard to imagine any serious Doom fan not having at least had some encounter with Esoteric over the years, and even harder to imagine that anything I could write about the fundamentals of their approach would come as a convincing, opinion-changing revelation. But, to me - for all the high points of the demo and their 'Epistemological Despondency' debut - this was the album where the band first really blossomed into a full and consistent realisation of their unique and eclectic sound. There's certainly a case to be made that this early double-disc monster is also the one which most comprehensively buries the listener in a seemingly endless encapsulation of the deepest, darkest, hardest to assimilate and most disturbingly dissonant swathes of their sonic terrorism. As such, it's simply an essential part of the extreme Doom canon: the briefer single albums which followed lacked the sheer breadth of synaesthesiac battery, while the longer but more easily appreciated ventures of the 2010's never quite repeated its darkest intensity, and this version - with all the technical, and, yes, aesthetic, care lavished on it - is the definitive one to have. I really don't mind whether, like me, you have reasons for sticking to the CD edition for the moment, or have already gone down the sexier 12"-of-high-grade-vinyl route - the point is that you can now choose either, and experience one of the most seminal albums of the 1990s exactly as it was meant to be, in the medium of your choice.

That, to me, is both an excellent opportunity, and one which completely validates Aesthetic Death's long-standing and absolute faith in backing Esoteric over all these years. Buy this, in whatever format. You owe it to yourself to own this utter beast of an album in its ultimate presentational and sonic form.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
CD 1
1. Creation (Through Destruction)
2. Dominion Of Slaves
3. Allegiance
4. NOXBC9701040
CD 2
5. Sinistrous
6. At War With The Race
7. A Worthless Dream
8. Stygian Narcosis
9. Passing Through Matter

Duration : Approx. 115 minutes

Visit the Esoteric bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-09-10 by Mike Liassides
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