Sunday, September 1, 2013

Urbandub - Esoteric (2013) Album Review

Finally. The guys (and girl) are back. Make no mistake about it, this is Urbandub's heaviest and dreamiest album at the same time, and probably their most cohesive effort since 2005's Embrace. They haven't been around since 2009's The Apparition, but it feels like they've been gone for longer.

Their last two albums, The Apparition and Under Southern Lights, no doubt won them a slew of new fans, but it didn't quite appeal to some of their older fans (me) - old both in fandom tenure and actual age. For some reason, those albums sort of left a bad taste in my mouth no amount of toothpaste could cleanse (insert dramatic sound clip here). Interestingly, both albums were recorded at Tracks studios in Manila with the same producer - Angee Rozul. I haven't quite penetrated the production fabric that snugly wraps Esoteric, but it's quite obvious they decided to record elsewhere this time around - my guess is in Tower of Doom studios, after lead singer Gabby Alipe's successful stint with Franco's 2010 self-titled debut album which was recorded in the same studio. Switching studios was what exactly this band needs.

That said, it seems we've honed in to what probably was the problem with their past two releases. Esoteric boasts a far superior guitar mix compared to The Apparition and USL. The vocal mix is more layered, adding a much-needed anthemic sound to their choruses, and the drums pack more punch.

But then I noticed something else was different with this band. One being Alipe's singing. The vocal arrangement is more refined here than in any other Urbandub record. A good example is the stanza and chorus of the album opener, "Stars Have Aligned", especially when Alipe sings the line "...god, a little pity just a little" (?), exuding playful wordplay and confidence in Alipe's ability as a now veteran vocalist for a band that's been around for more than a decade. Another is the album's first single, "Never Will I Forget", paints dream-pop bliss as Alipe coaxes listeners to "reminisce". I'm not a fan of the screamed "long time no see" part though - it's weird picturing two friends screaming "long time no see!" into each other's ears. That's just not how those things go down, in my mind at least.

Sonically, the album starts heavy, slows down in the middle, and ends heavy. The heavy songs do well to bookend this concise 10-track album, featuring some of the most down-tuned, dynamic, and crunchiest riffs this band has ever put on record that I won't be surprised if they used 7-string guitars on some of them. The slower songs are, I would say, standard Urbandub fare - the most notable being "When Love Is Not An Answer" featuring a simple, but hastily finger-plucked bass line over a slow but deliberate drum tempo. There's something special about it - and the same can be said about the rest of the tracks. Definitely give this album a listen. You won't regret it.

- This is as heavy and dynamic as Urbandub can get
- Dreamy

- ...

9 out of 10


Inna Surita said...

Oh look, it's my photo ;) XD Lol.

tingkagol said...

Hey, I hope you're okay with me using it.

Inna Surita said...

Just saw this now haha, sure. Just link my name as the Photo owner. Thanks :)