Released: 2015, Svart Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Finland’s Skepticism are enjoying a bit of a Cinderella-esque renaissance at the moment. Their 1995 STORMCROWFLEET debut was arguably the catalyst for the entire funeral doom movement, but despite remaining active with intermittent releases across the last two decades, the band has been predominantly relegated to “cult footnote” status. Then comes a well-timed article in Decibel and a Hall of Fame induction for said debut, a high profile slot performing at last year’s Maryland Deathfest, and a band that’s been active for the last 20 years suddenly becomes an overnight sensation. Capitalizing on that momentum, the Fins recorded an album’s worth of new material in front of a live audience and have released it as a CD/DVD combo, the lovingly titled - ORDEAL.
If not for the sporadic applause in between tracks, it’d be hard to discern ORDEAL as a live album. The performance itself is near flawless, sounding surprisingly crisp and distinct across its eight tracks. The tunes themselves come across exactly as you’d expect them to - methodically slow and melodically inclined (think early MDB on Quaaludes), with heaping doses church organ accompaniment to really liven things up…seriously, it’s a pretty depressing hour and change. Tracks like the opening “You”, “March Incomplete”, and the massively massive “The Departure” exemplify why Skepticism still persist today within the genre. Though certainly stuck in a doom metal time warp, the band exceeds in creating moments of genuine trepidation and hopelessness within an admittedly simple musical formula.
The anthemic “Closing Music” is followed by a pair of classic cuts – “The Pouring” from their infamous debut and “The March and the Stream” from their sophomore “Lead and Ether” opus, rounding out a set of new (although comfortable tunes) with some familiar friends. At the end of the day, ORDEAL ends up being both a safe yet advantageous outing for Skepticism. As simply a collection of new material, it’s completely in step with everything the band has introduced thus far; as a collection of new material presented live in its entirety for the first time in front of a willing and judgmental audience, it’s fantastic. Visually, it's a bit surreal to see a wall of eager fans standing still against the proceedings, soaking in the wall of sound that affronts them, but it certainly amplifies the band's control from the stage.
ORDEAL may not be the album you spin on a Friday night before hitting the bars, but it’ll be the album you spin at the end of the night when you’re reviewing your life choices. The social adoration may be late in coming, but it’s no less deserved; Skepticism delivery honesty in their misery, and ORDEAL is misery personified.