Reviewed: September 2021
Released: 2021, Svart Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Funeral doom is a tricky one to really get right. It can seem straightforward at first glance, but any band that simply plays doom metal as slow and ponderous as they can will run the risk of rapidly losing the interest of all but the most dedicated of doomsters. Too much focus on solemn, sepulchral pacing can lead to uninteresting end results if there aren’t other elements or a solid atmosphere to back it up. But on Companion, Skepticism handily show just why they’re such a well-regarded part of the genre.
Everything certainly -is- still appropriately funereal and dirge-like, but it isn’t just lumbering along pointlessly. There are other sounds and elements to the music to hold attention, and to give it all a layer of atmosphere, a world to be carried away to rather than just a vague sense of gloom.
In particular, the organ sounds and other such effects add a great deal to the music. “The Swan and the Raven” evokes My Dying Bride’s classic laments in both name and sound, and even rises into something oddly hopeful at the end, like a glimmer of light at the end of an oppressively dark tunnel. “The Intertwined” makes similarly good use of the string instrument elements, giving us melodic rises that can even call to mind certain grandiose folk styles like those of Primordial or Moonsorrow.
Elsewhere in the tracklist we get some truly epic offerings that earn the long runtimes typical of funeral doom. “Calla” keeps up a mid-pace through, shifting gear into the realms of epic metal ala Atlantean Kodex or Doomsword, and offering a nice bit of variety. This is carried even further in “The March of the Four”, which brings in a truly glorious feel and makes absolutely superb use of the melodies it employs. The tasty lead work plays along with the symphonic sounds, building and layering like a great struggle to scale a mountain.
It’s this degree of variety and awareness of pacing that really helps set Skepticism above so many others. Companion sticks to its guns, but it doesn’t get bogged down in repetition over and over. Hell, in “Passage” the band decides to casually toss us some tremolo picking like it’s nothing, along with stomping riffs punctuated by organ music that makes me feel like I’m heading into a Castlevania boss fight.
Even if you may have found some styles of doom a little uninteresting in the past, Skepticism’s latest is well worth a try, with a sense of showmanship that might help convert more than a few sceptics. Or should that be non-skeptics?