In a 4 week period that sees the release of not one, not two but three highly anticipated Funeral Doom releases in the shape of Ahab’s The Boats Of The Glen Carrig, Tyranny’s Aeons In Tectonic Internment and Skepticism’s own Ordeal, it is perhaps the Finnish Funeral Doom Metal pioneers 5th album that holds the most appeal.
Why the fuss? Well, not only is it an incredibly rare occurrence to have 3 Funeral Doom albums released in such a short period of time (not forgetting the release of Shape Of Despair’s Monotony Fields back in June), Skepticism have surprisingly jettisoned the notion of recording in a studio environment – these guys obviously like to test their nerve – and instead chose to record Ordeal live, before an audience; an ordeal in itself you might surmise. You can assume Funeral Doom fans have been excessively salivating at the thought of so many releases from a genre not exactly renowned for its productivity. Thankfully, all of the aforementioned albums have so far have been exemplary and Ordeal, with it’s unusual approach, is certainly no exception.
Sticking to Funeral Doom’s rule of excessive, drawn-out song lengths, Skepticism’s brand of Gothic-infused melancholy meets deep growls, baroque sounds and hammering riffs proves as unnervingly complex and rewarding as ever. Ordeal slowly reveals its intricacies over 6 tracks of new material and two re-recordings in the shape of “Pouring” (from 1995’s genre-defining Stormcrowfleet) and ‘The March And The Stream” (from 1998’s Lead And Aether) and never once feels forced or in danger of falling apart at the seams. An astounding achievement considering its live environment recording.
In fairness, Ordeal is not perfect – how could it be considering its inception – but it is mesmerisingly and achingly beautiful in a way that only fans of Funeral Doom will probably understand. From lumbering beats, crushingly bleak riffs and baritone growls come moments of tranquil semi-acoustic beauty, 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.
Potentially this was a massive risk for Skepticism as to return after a 7 year absence with a live album of new material could have been disastrous. As it turns out, their bravery and skill should be applauded – sombrely of course – as Ordeal may have been an arduous trial to make but it’s nothing less than a triumph for the listener. 9/10