Friday, July 24, 2015

Skepticism: Ordeal (2015)

Updated 7/27 with music clip

Skepticism was one of the first funeral doom bands, and they’re still going strong. If you don’t have the patience for it, move on. But if you’re into it, you’ll definitely want to check out Ordeal.

I think most people instinctively believe it takes a lot of skill to play fast, but not to play slow. I think that’s dead wrong. If you’re playing fast, you don’t need to keep a consistent tempo to sound good. Just listen to early Venom. But playing slow—funeral doom slow—takes an enormous measure of restraint and patience, and a steady heartbeat. As if to punctuate just how skilled they are, Skepticism opted to record their fifth full-length album live in front of an audience. For 78 incredible minutes, they maintain the pace and the mood. Point taken: These Finns are amazing.

So, fifth album—about that: Twenty-four years active with a remarkably consistent lineup, and only five albums. That’s the result of brutally high standards. (Check the ratings on their Metal Archives page if you don’t believe me.) Those standards have not let up in the slightest here.

Slow, slow metal riffs, deep death growls, and synth/organ have always been their building blocks, and nothing’s changed. It’s often ultra-dramatic (see “Closing Music” especially) and always full of tension. Sometimes they feel it necessary to add something extra, like eerie, clean guitar riffs or a very interesting black metal riff (see “The Road”), but their mastery of mood and tension mean that’s hardly necessary. It doesn’t seem particularly dynamic as you won't really notice the subtle changes at first, and many songs fit together seamlessly. Yet it is dynamic, though it could hold your attention rapt from pure force of will. You will always feel like they’re on the brink of crashing down, they never do, and you can’t turn your attention away.

And despite the live recording, it sounds amazing, like they brought the audience into a studio. The only defect here is the occasional cheering, which seems a little too happy for the dense, dark mood they’ve so carefully woven.

The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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