Alone Again

dB Rating: 9/10

Release Date: September 18th, 2015
Label: Svart Records

These Finnish funeral doom pioneers—alongside Thergothon, obviously— aren’t exactly the most prolific band on the planet. Seven years separate Ordeal from its stunning predecessor, Alloy. The difference between the two records is that, here, the organ enjoys a more prominent role than the guitar. Sad to say, the nuance, the unfathomable heaviness, the tactile quality of Jani Kekarainen’s playing is engulfed by Eero Pöyry’s funeral home organ work. But that might be because Skepticism recorded Ordeal live, where the neat parts are sacrificed for the whole.

Of course, Kekarainen’s Nordic gloom is present on Ordeal—mostly as middle-of-song bridges—but the well-dressed axeman isn’t as spotlighted as on Alloy, except on “The Departure,” “March Incomplete” and, especially, “Momentary” where he and Skepticism display an uncanny ability to make it feel like it’s 50 below and life is slowly fleeting. As for frontman Matti Tilaeus, he sounds as riveting as ever. His live voice is no less powerful than it was on Alloy and Stormcrowfleet. There are points where his growl reminds of Root’s Big Boss, but unlike his Czech counterpart, Tilaeus is almost always icy and cavernous.

Despite being over an hour and 10 minutes, Ordeal isn’t an ordeal to experience. It all flows naturally and effortlessly. From the bright “You” to the ungodly lament of “The March and the Stream,” Skepticism vampire time away carefully, heavily and woefully. Most bands wish they were as good.

—Chris Dick
Review originally printed in the October 2015 issue (#132).