Twenty years on from their début album and Finish doomsters Skepticism return with their sixth full-length effort 'Ordeal'. Drenched in funeral doom and almost folk infused elements the band, never ones to play by the rules, recorded the entire album in its current form in front of a live audience in January of this year. The end result is a is a gripping, raw evocation of the band in their purest sense. Undiluted by clean studio takes, it is an accurate and true to life portrait of the veteran band.
Slow and heavy, the band's pace changes very little for the majority of the album. It is a monolithic slab of bludgeoning beats, grim guitar riffs, haunting atmospheric keyboards and gravelly growling vocals. Tracks such as 'You', 'The Departure', 'March Incomplete', 'Closing Music', and 'The March And The Stream' are all exemplary pieces that meld the deep melancholy of funeral doom with a wonderfully reverential air of high gothic that smooths out the rougher edges of the recording.
Even though it is a live recording there is little to colour it as such aside from the odd bit of crowd noise in a few places and the lack of overdubbing. On the one hand it asks an awful lot of the band's performance, which they do deliver on, but on the other it creates a very intimate and close kind of listening experience that you can only get from liver performance.
Skepticism have gambled and won with 'Ordeal'. The album is incredibly strong in terms of song writing and performance. The live nature of the recording has been executed to a high degree. And the band sound as raw and honest as you would expect, but with enough gloss to just make you forget at times it is indeed being performed live. It's a strong offering and one that demands attention.