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Skepticism – Companion

Fans of funeral doom have learned how to be patient. Not only do the songs only reveal themselves slowly as they unfold their secrets over long spans of time, the gap between a band’s releases also tends to reach across great stretches of time. Skepticism is no exception to that. It’s been a good 6 years since their last album ‘Ordeal’, but here it finally is their sixth full length ‘Companion’ on the eve of their thirtieth birthday as pioneers in genre.

On their previous album they tried to experiment with the recording process by not recording it in a studio as you would normally do, but instead take it in one take from a live concert. While their music is indeed a mesmerizing experience to witness live and I’ll give them their due respect for such a bold move, in all honesty not everything transferred so well back to tape in the end. Especially, with the vocals the process somehow failed to capture that power and intensity that Matti Tilaueus usually imbues on stage. None of those issues on the new record, which exudes the modest magnificence we’ve come to expect from these Finish pallbearers in all its unassuming sonic splendour.

The album opens with ‘Calla’, a white lily that is often used a funerals and symbolizes the purification of the departed soul.  An apt song title for this band if I’ve ever seen one. Swathed in church organs and slowly marching riffs, it describes the moment before death as passing through a valley of white lilies. With its relatively short span of just over 5 mins it is an ideal opener that is on the one hand direct and immediate while still encapsulating everything that makes a trademark Skepticism song.

I really like the new album’s artwork as well, it’s again very sober and stylized, seemingly depicting some sort of organ pipes crafted from white birches, the national tree of Finland and quite fittingly historically used for renewal and purification. ‘The Intertwined’ reminds me a bit of their absolute classic ‘The March and the Stream’ but with a peculiar twist tucked in there that somehow reminds me of Tool. ‘March of the Four’, a reference to the band members themselves, is truly a slow march to the burial, being the longest composition here. In Matti‘s own words: “For me the song is very emotional and personal. I think of this. The four of us march through life together/separately towards the unknown.”

‘Passage’ is possibly the most adventurous outing on the album, diving head first into an almost blackish maelstrom of biting tremolo picks with some of Matti’s most sinister vocals before pushing itself into a punishing cadence of pulverizing riffage and hammering drums. ‘The Inevitable’ takes a turn for the gentle with an acoustic guitar opening then marches towards more familiar burial grounds where it eventually actually picks up some momentum through the driving drums and loses itself in some deliciously dreamy guitar work.

‘The Swan and the Raven’ is definitely the most beautiful song on this eulogy. Recalling at least lyrically one of the standout tracks on Farmakon ‘Backward Funeral and the Raven’ it is centered around a uncharacteristically clear, tear inducing lead riff (the Swan?)- that shines through the dense funeral mist (the Raven?) as if it were the bright light at the end of the tunnel.

All that is left now is go through it…

Release Date: September 24, 2021
Label: Svart Records
Tracklist:

1. Calla
2. The Intertwined
3. March of the Four
4. Passage
5. The Inevitable
6. The Swan and the Raven

Reviews

  • Music10
  • Vocals/Lyrics9
  • Production9
  • Artwork9
  • Originality9
  • 9.2

    Score

    Often imitated, but none ever managed match their magnificent, funerary splendour like they can.



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