Saturday, January 24, 2009

Skepticism - Farmakon

This is the first time I heard Skepticism. It was 2003 and I was getting curious about this “funeral doom” style I had been reading about. At first, I did not get it, but slowly this album enveloped me in its strange world. I kept having this mood that could only be satisfied by the environs of this particular album. The big difference between this album and all the other Skepticism offerings is the expressiveness of the performance and the new depths of the material. This is a lively and fully realized crystallization of everything unique about this band.
The first track is called “The Raven and the Backwards Funeral” and it is a reworking of the first song on the “Process of Farmakon” EP; though you might not even recognize it, as this version is stripped of its experimental treatments and rendered even more sophisticated and effective. Shrouded in the new developments of the band, these arrangements are filled with fluid guitar work and the most active and dynamic drumming yet. The vocalist is by far the most expressive and poetic yet.
The menacing outro of the first track features staccato pulsing on the organ, falling into silence which soon reveals a glorious, chord picking build up of the second track. Just as the build-up reaches its climax, the band explodes into the lush melodic forces of “Shred of light, pinch of endless”; which may be their most emotional songs. Sad, swaying, unforgiving devastation surrounds you, as Skepticism churn through the changes of this beast, coloring the air with synth strings and sullen distortion. The folksy strains of “Farmakon.Process” lead an ominous and epic reworking of the second track on “Process of Farmakon”

This album is a breathtaking journey that seems to go on forever, and then you realize that you have only made it about half way through and that the last three tracks are all nearly fourteen minutes long. The bluesy shoegaze stomp at the end of “Farmakon.Process” fades immediately into the ritual ambiance of the “Untitled” fourth track. The synth strings drone over minimal thunder of the tom drums as the guitarist flirts with a new set of chords to meditate on. Eventually the distortion eclipses the clean tones of the guitar, making spacey drones for a very intimate and frightening vocal passage to sit upon. This ceremony is then punctuated by loud reed organ chords and screeching vibrato synth strings. There is really no way to describe this song, other than to say it is easily the most terrifying and unusual song in the Skepticism catalog. Eventually the tribal pulse of the song degenerates into a black abyss of dark rumbles and heavy breathing. Once the ritual comes back to life, you finally get to hear this band of Finnish misanthropes really let loose. The song turns into a harrowing finale of screaming and pounding on every instrument in their arsenal. There is even a bit of humor in the witchy chorus of voices at the end. Now that they’ve got that out of their system, we snap back into the doom metal meat and potatoes. “Nowhere” is a backpedaling cycle of mystical refrains and anthemic melodies delivered in alternations between Earth-like clean-tone slowcore and crushing powerchord doom metal… for fourteen minutes and nine seconds. The highlight of this song is the illuminating qualities of the massive keyboard sounds that start to dominate the mix, about eight minutes in. The contemplative head-bobber “Nothing” closes the album, featuring an epic set of riffs, pounding rhythms, and another shadowy keyboard breakdown before driving home the final motions, heading towards another stirring coda and fading off into eternity.
This was an excellent way to be introduced to this band and it still stands as one of their finest hours. The workmanship, passion, discipline and emotion that went into this album will always seem striking and impressive to me.


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