The world imagined by The Moth Gatherer’s Esoteric Oppression lives up to its name. Soundscapes evoke a not-quite-horror movie, and flesh out an album as creative as it is bleak. Close your eyes, and see a world ruined, crater-blasted and desolate. Ethereal synths layer with the post-metal riffs, harsh rasps buried deep in the mix, while delayed reverbed guitars give a hint of -gaze. It’s rare to find an album that can weave all this together so effortlessly.
In the post-Isis world, finding a band mature enough to use these elements without any one overwhelming the other is rare enough, but finding a band confident enough to weave in wordless female vocals is a marvel. And like every other element of this album, nothing overstays its welcome.
As the haunting vocals evaporate, “Motionless in Oceania” conveys a sense of urgency and intensity, a worry about the future. It builds, gaining momentum, becoming ever more insistent until a held breath is slowly released. Inevitability sets in, an acceptance of one’s fate. Restrained tremolo guitars finish the job. A synth heavy outro leaves you questioning everything.
The unhealthy heartbeat of “Utopia” calls out the idea that there’s anything good left in the world, suggesting that what we’ve come to accept as given is anything but. It bleeds out to a soundscape that wouldn’t be out of place in a post-apocalyptic thriller. “The Failure Design” eventually lets the post-metal riffs take center stage, where we finally see the provenance of their sound.
There’s no doubt that this is a post-metal album, but the sludgy melodies may leave you wondering if labelling it such is a disservice. Isis may be gone, but it’s nice to know there are still bands out there attempting to push the envelope of what post-metal is. The Moth Gatherer succeed where many fail, making sure that influence doesn’t become imitation. And hey, a touch of OSI never hurts.
“Phosphorescent Blight” ends the album with a hint of hope. A feeling that maybe, somewhere, something can yet be salvaged. If we try hard enough. If maybe, this one time, we don’t fuck it up.