dB HoF NO. 110
Label: Red Stream, Inc.
Release date: 1995
Conjuring all things autumnal, vast and sorrowful, Skepticism’s 1995 funeral doom touchstone Stormcrowfleet was the vortex where death metal, black metal and earlier strains of doom metal all came to die in the late summer of 1995.
The mid-’90s were indeed a dark time for metal. Death metal’s storied early ’90s run was limping through its major label (Earache/Columbia) commercial phase. The second anniversary of Euronymous’ murder found black metal stagnating, as many of its key players were now either dead or languishing in jail. Doom metal seemed to be borrowing all the wrong things from the ‘70s or all the wrong things from goth, or sometimes both. Nü-metal was just over the horizon. Shit was looking bleak, man.
Miles below the surface, a microscopic fragment of the underground was intent on bringing the whole goddamn thing to its knees. Inverting the very foundation that extreme metal had built itself upon, Stormcrowfleet swapped adrenaline and brutality for ubiquitous sorrow and a meditative darkness that relied every bit on crushing guitar heaviness as it did on torturously slow tempos and the hypnotic, mournful tones of a creepy church pipe organ. A fitting requiem for metal’s mid-’90s demise.
As the description above suggests, Stormcrowfleet was indeed a doom metal album—but a far different kind of doom. Although its tempo and aesthetic may have been informed by the dead slow doom/death records that predated it (i.e., Winter, the earliest Cathedral or the Peaceville Three), Skepticism would turn their backs on the genre’s familiar stacked guitar harmonies and leftover heavy metal trappings in favor of a glacial, cavernous, near-ambient dirge that brooded and terrified in a way doom-metallers had not yet been subjected to. This theoretical departure from traditional doom/death nudged Stormcrowfleet—and the more hypnotic and nihilistic strains of early-to-mid-’90s extreme doom in general—into a realm all its own, necessitating the new genre tag “funeral doom” to separate the former from its bastard stepchild.
The birth of Skepticism’s brand of meditative gloom was no different than any other teenage heavy metal undertaking. Four metalheads growing up in a small town outside Helsinki, Finland, whose mutual respect for crushing doom heaviness was reason enough to try their own hand at a favored genre. Only, the nexus behind Stormcrowfleet’s innovative sound arose as much from shared musical interests as it did a spiritual immersion and fluency with Finland’s vast, desolate landscapes, stark winters and propensity for melancholy. Band members were chosen by personality rather than the merits of specific musical talent.
With such an insulated vision, it’s no wonder the simple act of the band’s original bassist announcing his departure in 1992 would become the catalyst by which Skepticism would unlock their trademark sound. Lacking that essential sixth sense communion with any potential fill-in bassists who tried out for the job, the remaining members decided to scramble the entire formula and reinvent themselves from the ground up. In one fell swoop, Skepticism opted to forgo bass guitar and second guitar entirely, while moving decommissioned six-stringer Eero Pöyry to his rightful place behind a vintage church pipe organ. Its deep, mournful tones (funneled through an amp cabinet) were left with the daunting task of absorbing the band’s entire low end, guitar harmony and general atmospherics with the single touch of an ivory key. Though the move was risky, the young Finns didn’t bat an eyelash, and the newly restructured Skepticism would soon find their stride with introspective doom metal that prized crushing heaviness and hypnotic ambience in equal measure.
More than just an early forerunner of a genre, Stormcrowfleet not only broke down barriers, but cleverly rebuilt them, and in doing so, opened the door to decades of slumberous, contemplative funeral doom metal in its wake. For all this, Decibel pries the coffin lid from its Hall of Fame vault to welcome the mighty Stormcrowfleet.
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