I probably shouldn't linger too long on this review. We both have other things we would like to be doing. Suffice to say, there is little that I enjoyed about Zierler's ESC. I listened to it twice, both times fast-forwarding or skipping through the album trying to find some parts that were pleasing to my ears. That should tell you volumes. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Quickly. Zierler is keyboard player and composer Finn Zierler from Twilight and Beyond Twilight. He's put this project together with Swedish guitarist Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry, Kaipa), Norwegian bassist/vocalist Truls Haugen (Insense, Circus Maximus), drum veteran, Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Halford, et al), and vocalist Kelly Sundown Carpenter.
Musically, what you have with ESC is generally progressive, often symphonic, metal with a modern edge. That's to say the large majority of the compositions are not only heavy, but harsh, often thrashy at times. I would also add cacophonous to the mixture. Cacophony disguised by elaborate arrangements consisting of voluminous amount of tempo and time signature changes. Some of the same description goes for the vocals. Carpenter's voice is all over the place. We all know that he can sing clean and melodic as necessary. Here you discover his range from melodic to screamo to dirty to simply out of control. He's largely more of the latter three than melodic. Combined with the harshness of the Zierler sound, everything about the "sound" of ESC became something between abrasive and annoying. And mostly the melody got torched throughout. Basically, I couldn't help feeling that Finn Zierler was attempting to mimic the Devin Townsend approach and sound of progressive metal. But that's likely a sweeping generalization.
To be fair, there are some interesting and notable things here. One is Per Nilsson's guitar work, largely fiery neo-classical pyrotechnics. Another thing are those few enjoyable moments where you're not being accosted by frantic progressive metal. Like after the four minute mark of Aggrezzor, with a tag team of melodic guitar and keyboards. Also the gentle piano and vocals in the middle of Darkness Delight. More crisp piano intrigue comes around three minutes in You Can't Fix Me No More (only lead to dirty screamo vocals). There's probably some other high points, but I wasn't willing to put myself the tedious work of listening for them. As said it the start, I didn't find ESC all that listenable and therefore not all that enjoyable. Alternatively, others who like more harsh and technical progressive metal may feel different. If that's you, go for it.
I didn't find the modern progressive metal of Zierler's ESC all that listenable and therefore not all that enjoyable. Alternatively, others who like more harsh and technical progressive metal may feel different. If that's you, go for it.
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