Recording a live album isn’t a new concept, but for Skepticism, who don’t do anything by halves, recording their brand new album completely live, was certainly a new experience. The Finnish funeral doom band have been plying their gothic trade for longer than most of their fans have even been alive, but their timeless sound and gorgeous tone is enough to attract new listeners as well as keep their older audience interested in any new material. Ordeal has been a long time in the making, and Skepticism have kept us waiting since 2008s incredible Alloy for new music. Their sound hasn’t changed much in the interim, but the emotion and spectacle is plain to hear, and in the case or Ordeal, see, as it comes as a package with a DVD.
Filmed live in Klubi, Turku in Finland earlier this year, Ordeal is a record that takes you to the very edges of human pain, leading you into darkness and despair with no light or hope to be seen. It’s Skepticism’s remit that absolute pitch black is found along the way, with previous works constantly aching for the hope that perhaps there is an end to this anguish. The sorrowful, soaring guitar that breaks free of opener “You” is a shining beacon in the abyss that the band create and throughout the album small glimmers of hope appear, but they are tinged with utter desperation at the edges and vocalist Matti soon drags you back into a world of aching hurt.
“The March Incomplete” is a stunning highlight that takes you on an almost physical journey into this chasm of doom, The live organ creates textures that speak of desolation and regret while Matti commands his audience despite the minimal interaction. Vocally, his power is absolute, yet it takes him much of first song “You” to find his feet, as it were. There’s a small element of doubt in his performance that shows just how fallible people are. It’s not a slight on Skepticism at all, instead it makes the record all the more intriguing. There’s no room for error, for overdubbing or for another take and as such, Ordeal is raw, but genuinely striking.
That earlier quietude is soon overtaken by bombastic elements that breathe and twist in grand, funereal motions with “Closing Music” climbing ever higher towards the pinnacle of gloom and closing Skepticism's newest record on cries of melancholic doom. They include recordings of two fan favourites, "Pouring" and "The March and the Stream" as a bonus, and they serve as a reminder that the Finnish band have been breaking hearts and constructing shadowy atmospheres for a long time.
Ordeal is a record that flows with grand, operatic style and Skepticism are masters of the craft. It's a foreboding, forlorn work that deals with the deepest, darkest corners of despondency and makes no bones about how utterly miserable it can all be. Ordeal is a metaphor for life and for the pressures of creating your vision live, for all to see. For Skepticism it's the perfect expression of their manifesto.
9.0 / 10
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