Funeral doom pioneers Skepticism take their time – no surprises there – and we’ve had to wait an arduously long 6 years for a follow-up to their experimental 2016 album, Ordeal (an album that was recorded live in front of an audience to scintillating effect). With 6th album Companion now wading its way through the mire, its strangely comforting to encounter this most exquisite of bands once again; safe in the knowledge that quality comes as standard. That’s not to say that Skepticism are predictable of course – far from it – but there’s only so many places funeral doom can go and where it does go, it….goes….very….slowly.
Opener “Calla” initially comes as a welcome surprise then with its almost up-beat, higher tempo and folky, melodic death metal temperament. The track raises an immediate question. Have Skepticism morphed into a Tales From A Thousand Lakes, Amorphis-esque outfit whose funeral doom past has now been jettisoned entirely? Have they fuck. They’re just lulling us into a false sense of security before the real weight of Companion comes crashing down!
While an air of 90’s death/doom understandably pervades, it’s to Skepticism’s credit that they’re still writing songs that have the ability to sideswipe us without fucking with their own distinctive formula to a distractable extent. How funeral doom or death/doom songs can be tragically cheerful is another misnomer but Skepticism are adept at unearthing beauty from utter despair, and ever since 1995’s Stormcrowfleet blew the lid off funeral doom’s closed casket they’ve mastered the art arguably better than any other band on the planet.
As is now expected from Skepticism, lumbering beats, crushingly bleak riffs and baritone growls come before moments of tranquil semi-acoustic beauty, with Skepticism’s funeral march rhythms seamlessly merging with the near silence and sombre reflection of a wake. The very nature of this controlled and mannered beast seems to inform a sense of stripped down necessity in Skepticism’s performance, with an overarching sense of purity and the deftness of human touch adding layers to the whole experience. To call funeral doom beautiful is a contradiction in terms and yet Skepticism have always turned sorrow into somewhat of an art form and Companion is certainly no exception.
With Companion, Skepticism have delivered an album that stands toe-to-toe with the best the sub-genre has to offer. 9/10
Skepticism’s Companion releases worldwide on September 24th, 2021 via Svart Records