I enjoy things that have been stripped to their essential components. I’m not necessarily talking about strict minimalism, although I appreciate that as well. Rather, simple combinations that exceed the sum of their parts while remaining unmistakably those things. Take the Martini. It boasts just three ingredients: vodka—I don’t want to hear any gin nonsense—a splash of dry vermouth and an olive, yet it’s place on top of the cocktail pantheon is
unshakable unstirrable. Then there is legendary Swiss photographer Robert Frank, who just passed away September 9th. He could do more with a 35 mm camera, black and white film and his shrewd eye than an army of photographers equipped with DSLRs, in-camera photo editing software and enough resolution to zoom in on individual atoms. Italian death doom band Esogenesi share this affinity for reducing things to their essentials. This means their self-titled debut album is, at first blush, deceptively straight-forward, but grows impressively more rewarding with each subsequent listen.
Esogenesi is an elemental doom machine that grinds along like heavy earth mover equipment, alternating between standard death doom and a more funerary style. The band is a classic four piece of vocals, guitar, bass and drums with each member sticking to their role. When I say they are no-frills, I don’t mean they lack creativity, rather they let each instrument stand on its own as an irreducible component. Case in point is when opener “Abomonio” transitions from a clean guitar intro to its main riff. The distortion covers Davide Roccato’s playing in a hard, crunchy crust that is plenty heavy, but the sound never feels disconnected from the human behind it. Listening to Esogenesi, it’s easy to visualize fingers moving across frets and drum heads being struck as each note signifies the act of its playing. Where many bands try to bury a listener in layers of sound, Esogenesi let theirs hit you head on.
One of the remarkable things about Esogenesi is the way it presents “mournful” without being “weepy” or melodramatic. This is an emotional record with affecting song transitions, but they’re subtle shifts rather than goose-bump inducing leaps. There are no soaring clean vocals to contrast Jacopo Marinelli’s dry, wretched growls, and even the clean guitar passages are either down-tuned or handled by Carlo Campanelli’s limber bass. His importance to this record in particular is highlighted by his interlude half way through “Abomonio,” which acts as a fulcrum between the slow grind of the song’s first half and the death groove that ends it. This careful balancing act of styles is repeated throughout the album until closer “Incarnazione Della Conoscenza” fully embraces the funeral doom that other parts of the album toy with. It’s a monster of a track, built on the most somber guitar lines and gut-punching chugs that Esogenesi has to offer, and stands shoulder to shoulder with the finest doom metal songs of 2019 thus far.
Great overall sound and finely balanced style notwithstanding, this is still a debut album, and Esogenesi haven’t quite hit it out of the park. The album leads and closes with its strongest material, and while “Decadimento Astrale” and “Esilio Nell’Extramondo” each have several fine moments—the funeral-y second half of the former is great, while the opening of the latter features another winning guitar line—neither is as tightly composed as Esogenesi‘s bookends. Acting as a pivot point, middle instrumental track “…Oltregenesi…” is enjoyable enough, and notable for introducing acoustic guitar to the mix, but it dissipates just as it seems to get going. Still, its position in the album shows once again how Esogenesi intentionally use balance as an aesthetic ethos.
Good doom metal was seemingly thin on the ground for much of 2019 while other styles surged, but these last several weeks have seen an embarrassment of doomy riches. Esogenesi are very much a part of that as they serve notice with a confident and well crafted debut album. Especially exciting is their ability to imbue each sound with an elemental honesty that sounds fresh for its simplicity while still delivering an emotional punch. Fans of death doom would do well to pick this one up.