First album in four years from funeral doom classics Esoteric? Yeah, this was anticipated. When I first listened to this upon its release, I lost interest quickly and shelved it away. I was reluctant to give up on it, but I just wasn't in the mood.
Now, I'm back to it again with the bass cranked. And I like it. The Maniacal Vale has a very recognizable funeral sound and style to it at first. Long, drawn-out segments of spacious and glacious riffs, anguished cries that fade like memories, keening guitar leads, and drums filling up the lonely, empty spaces - it's all there. You know it, you've heard it before, and you know how you feel about it. In relation to their older material, The Maniacal Vale is more solid sounding, with a clear but rich professional production.
So what's to be had here besides a big shiny package? Esoteric have stirred in a lot of touches to mix things up. "Circle" and "Quickening" show off their focus on space with some suitably astral synth and ambient work, making way for "Caucus of Mind" and it's aggressive forays on death metal. Starting the second disc, "Silence" and "The Order of Destiny" feature more proggy guitars alongside the requisite crushing doom, and "Ignotum Per Ignotius" finishes it all off with some astral wind ambience-fueled material.
It's all great stuff, really rather a tiptop effort by one of the biggest names in funeral doom, but...this album lasts one hour and fourty-one minutes. Yeeeah. Experienced doomsters that are in the mood will enjoy the trip, but it's still a bit ridiculous. Oh well, doom will be doom.
Verdict: Win [4/5] (worthy of Epic, but who the fuck has the time to listen to this all together?)