December 23, 2015

Skepticism - Ordeal

Written by Kaptain Carbon.

Max from Metalbandcamp and I had a joke about me reviewing the new Skepticism. I was reviewing a lot at the time and made mention that if my article was ever delayed it would fit the template of funeral doom. I would like to imagine my joke is just getting funnier the more time passes between the release date and and when I finally review it. Ordeal was released on September 18th, 2015 Let us look at the date. Holy shit, it is almost 2016. I still made it before the end of the year however.

For as much as I was sweating doing this review, the fact remains that the Finnish funeral doom act Skepticism takes their time with records. Ordeal is the band’s 5th record and followup to 2008’s Alloy. That is seven years between albums. I am not making this sort of thing up. Ordeal treads on a very long carpet of already praised records, with specific mentions to Stormcrowfleet and Lead and Aether, both which cemented the band as masters of gloom. 2015 sees a new record coming in at an almost unmanageable 1 hour and 17 minutes. With this density, I think I will be good for the next 10 years.

Skepticism 2012. Photos by Jo T.

I’m sorry, where are my manners? You maybe asking yourself what is happening on this record, and in funeral doom in general. Why in the world is it so slow? It is true that funeral doom, or at least the name, can send people into convulsions over the needless hairsplitting of genres. The music jogs along to the tempo of a funeral dirge, the guitars often times break into wails, and the vocals are derived from death/doom so they creep across mortuary floors. Though funeral doom is practiced by probably a little more than a dozen bands, the fact remains that Skepticism, along with bands like Mournful Congregation, Thergothon, and Esoteric have carved out a wonderful niche full of fog and perpetual longing. The whole atmosphere is meant to be suffocating in its grief and gloom. Ordeal continues this...well...ordeal….by not reinventing funeral doom’s template but rather contributing to its upkeep and restoration.

Ordeal may be Skepticism's most refined effort, but it is only experienced after spending more than an hour with its sound. The band’s structure is a godsend for those who find sitting through 10 plus minute doom songs tiring. Songs like “The March Incomplete” have enough variety between solos and breaks to make the whole experience rewarding and emotionally effective. “Closing Music” does a wonderful job of transforming the atmosphere of older songs like “Organaium” off of Lead and Aether into an actively engaging song that doesn’t just suffocate but rather extols the virtues of misery.

Skepticism 2012. Photos by Jo T.

Skepticism is quietly shining through their most recent albums if only for the fact that the production value is edging towards refinement. Though Stormcrowfleet remains one of the band's most traveled to destinations, it and albums like Lead and Aether are woefully buried under noise and fog. 2008’s Alloy continued the band’s trudge out of the swamp and into the bog that sits sort of beside the swamp. One can hear the difference in “The March and the Stream,” which originally was released on Lead and Aether in 1996 but is given a glamorous makeover with a richer palette of sound and production.

It took me a little bit, and in fact even longer to get around to this album, but I believe the wait was necessary to fully process Ordeal. This is not a record one goes a couple of times through before skipping off to something else. Skepticism has fully shown themselves as masters of their craft and effectively being bummed out for the past several decades.

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