Skepticism – Companion Review

As summer begins to slowly fade into shorter days and colder nights here in America, I’m constantly in a state of awe whenever seasons change.1 Winds crispen with biting coolness, the skies turn a foreboding grey, everybody begins to pumpkin spice all the things that can (and will) become pumpkin spiced. But autumn brings about a slow but captivating decay of leaves turning colors and dying, falling to the ground in a beautiful, somber reminder that life can change in a matter of years to a matter of seconds. So, with the passing of the seasons, now is a great time to pour a glass of your favorite spirit, sit in front of a fire, and partake in Companion, the sixth full-length by legendary Finnish funeral merchants, Skepticism.

And in a shocking turn of events, opener “Calla” starts things off on a (relatively) peppy note, moving at a clip that’s more Amorphis‘ Tales From the Thousand Lakes than the lurching, downtrodden nature of Skepticism‘s prior work. Once you look past the alarming tempo increase, you come to realize that it’s still trademark Skepticism through-and-through. They’ve still retained the live-and-loose production aesthetic. Lasse Pelkonen’s snare still sounds like it’ll reverberate for days. Eero Pöyry’s keyboard melodies continue to add a mournful counterpoint to Jani Kekarainen’s riffs and downtrodden vibes. The thunderous bass work… still isn’t a part of Skepticism‘s vocabulary whatsoever. In other words, it’s all still Skepticism, but a hair quicker.

Besides, that’s the only time you’ll hear Companion move quicker than a standard funeral procession because every song after that pulls you down to a lurch. Album standout “The March of the Four” gently reminds everyone why Skepticism are so wildly revered, with Matti Tilaeus giving yet another commanding growl over one of Kekarainen’s most mournful of melodies in a career chock full of them. Closer “The Swan and the Raven” carries you through wave after wave of emotions, with Pöyry’s melodies and chord structures providing the silken thread to tie everything together nicely. Within these 48 minutes lies a wealth of captivating sorrow that uncovers more on repeated listens.


But you have to be in the right mood for it. Like country-mates Thergothon and Norway’s Funeral, Skepticism isn’t the easiest of nuts to crack, especially if you’re not used to funeral doom. Between the sheer length of the songs, as well as the decreased tempo on the majority of tracks on Companion, especially in the final three (of six) songs, it can be a lot to absorb. On top of that, the band’s insistence of recording in unison without a click-track, a bassist, or even a traditional snare drum will seem strange or off-putting at first. But give it time and your attention, though, and Companion will grow on you as the march progresses forth to its final destination.

As the skies darken, and the final notes die off in the wind, Companion once again places Skepticism in the forefront of funeral doom metal. Does this eclipse prior works like Alloy or Stormcrowfleet? Not quite, but Companion doesn’t seem to be aiming for that goal. What it does do is provide a sense of cathartic comfort when such opportunities for that kind of release are almost non-existent these days. In that sense, Companion more than succeeds. I can see myself spinning this more as the autumn fades away to the cold, winter nights… or at least until it stops being summer here in Florida. I can see many of you doing the same.

 


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: skepticism.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/officialskepticism
Releases Worldwide: September 24th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Except it never stops being summer here in Florida until, like, December-ish.
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