Jamie Cansdale – 9/10
There are very few words in the English language that do any justice in describing the music that Skepticism have produced in their twenty-four year history. Majestic is one such word; intense is another. Whether you love the genre or not, it is simply futile to deny that these Finns are the master craftsmen of all the funeral doom storytellers. Ordeal, their fifth album and first for Svart Records, is further evidence of this, taking their pioneering sound one step further by recording in front of a live audience at Klubi in Turku, capturing the organic atmosphere of their sound as well as reminding us of a time when bands would record their albums live in the studio.
This is where this music belongs – in the dimly lit and intimate live arena. Having been fortunate to see the band play live before, in a church no less, listening to Ordeal takes me back to that most majestic of nights; the acoustics in such a setting allow the intricate layers of organ, guitar, drum and voice to bellow out into the nothingness, white light piercing through the thinly covered veil that is silence. In the home, it would benefit from a high quality sound system with more bass than usual. Turn out the lights, light a candle, and let the music swallow you.
Broken into four sections courtesy of applause from the audience, Ordeal begins with the ominous layering of master organist Eero Pöyry coupled with the shimmering of cymbals, leading us into You before plunging us into darkness with the funerary dirge of Jani Kekarainen’s handiwork and Matti’s inhuman vocals. It is as haunting as it is intense. Companion piece Momentary is relatively calm in comparison yet is heavy in atmosphere. It lulls us into a flase sense of security before the devastating power of The Departure shatters this cocoon with its spine-chilling beginning, dominated throughout by crushing funerary guitars and horrifying organ set pieces; coupled with the succeeding March Incomplete it is one of the highlights of the entirety of the doom genre since its inception.
When it comes to the drum sound, it does not get any heavier and thunderous than when Lasse Pelkonen steps behind the kit. Throughout his career in Skepticism he has been unparalleled and unmatched; on this album, as indeed live, he is heart-stopping. Pounding with his beaters the sonorous sound he produces is explosive and resonates throughout. You will hear this is the last of the newer songs, Closing Music – yet another haunting monument – and the brilliant rendition of fan favourite The March and the Stream; when the drums begin here, it is utterly heavy and cavernous.
2015 has proven to be a strong year for this eclectic sub-genre, with the triumphant return of Finland’s masters of misery Shape of Despair and now a seminal release by its true masters, their first since 2008’s Alloy, along with the DVD of the event. It captures their live sound in all its glory and is by far the best way to hear them. Majestic and intense.