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Sub Rosa

The Esoteric’s fans get a new album but no accompanying tour this Christmas.


December means hibernation for most touring rock acts, even ursine juggernauts such as the Esoteric.

It's understandable that a band that's already endured an equipment-destroying fire (February 2005) and transportation troubles that necessitated show cancellations (this past July) might want to avoid tempting fate on ice-slicked highways. However, the Esoteric, which released its third full-length album, Subverter, on October 17 and had to cancel a cluster of November dates because of what singer Stevie Cruz calls "unforeseen circumstances," is going a little stir-crazy.

Cruz emphasizes that his Lawrence-based noise institution is in no danger of dissolution, and promises a January tour, followed by a marathon trek through 2007.

"We had a good flow, and all our gears were going," Cruz says of the Esoteric's 2005 itinerary, which involved nearly 300 concerts. "Then we took time off to get into the creative mode and hammer out Subverter, and we let things get rusty. We're really excited about playing these songs live. I apologize to everyone for not being able to make it to some of these shows, but life's crazy, and it has a lot of twists and turns."

Subverter is similarly labyrinthine.

During "Don't Waste Guts," one of the most striking departures from 2005's relentlessly brutal Sureness of Sleepwalking, guest Steve Tulipana (Roman Numerals) sings the melodic hook in a gruff, vaguely British-accented voice, then Marshall Kilpatric kicks into an old-school hardcore drumbeat while the guitars swirl, oblivious to the propulsive pace. The atmospheric "Shipyards of Foreign Cities" features a skittering electronic prelude that guitarist Eric Graves pieced together in postproduction, using the remixing skills he honed with his Emotron side-project (

"Eric decided to make an introduction for 'Shipyards,' using the song as source material," Cruz explains. "He played with loops for a few hours, and when it worked, we gave it its own track. It was that type of recording session, easygoing and open-ended."

Experimenting spontaneously with several approaches in the studio, Cruz stretched himself vocally on Subverter, using a delivery that's tuneful, if never crooned.

"I knew before I even started to write these songs that I wanted to take the vocals to a new place," he says. "The vocals on Sureness were all the same on purpose because we didn't want to be lumped in with metalcore bands. I'm pleased with how it turned out, but it does make for an exhausting listen. I still love hooting and hollering, screaming and shouting, but now I do it in different ways. It's a lot more exciting live, switching it up."

For now, fans will have to take his word on that. Buy the Esoteric's new Subverter, or else.

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