Review Summary: Skeptical or no, Alloy is one of the best albums of 2008.
While being credited as one of the pioneers of funeral doom, the release of their fourth full length Alloy
simply proves that after nearly 20 years Skepticism are as solid as ever. An unchanging lineup greatly contributes to the stability surrounding the band, and each of their albums has been a furthered cultivation of their sound. Like a good bottle of wine, ageing has merely refined and matured the band; as good as they were back in 1995, they’ve consistently outdone themselves and Alloy
is no exception. Richly textured and void of any repetition, the album has a profound sense of flow and finesse; the band’s attention to detail is remarkable, and every moment of the album is geared towards saturating you in atmosphere.
Beginning with ‘The Arrival’, Alloy
wastes no time in completely enveloping the listener. Skepticism seem to have an unrivalled talent in creating organic and dynamic soundscapes; Alloy
does not deviate far from this tried and tested formula, and even betters it in regard to the band’s previous efforts. The organ work plays a pivotal role in creating said soundscapes, and set Skepticism aside from most other funeral doom. Ignoring the fact that the majority of bands in this genre are mediocre, only a select few are able to use keyboards or organs this extensively and pull it off without coming off as lame or pretentious. However, unlike a band such as Consummatum Est, the organ lines do not overshadow everything else. The album is very noticeably balanced, with a somewhat perfectly proportionate distance between the vocals and the separate instruments. Alloy
rarely digresses from this established sound, but this is not to say that it repeats itself. A plethora of variant moods and tones are evident throughout the album’s 47 minute length, and not a single one goes askew. The track ‘Antimony’ begins with an interesting organ line, somewhat allusive to a Transylvanian/Count Dracula image, and then works this organ line into the song in a subtle and articulate manner. The first half of ‘Antimony’ is a rather dark part of the album, and conceptualizes the idea of a ‘villain’ through both its heavier moments and its seemingly malevolent softer moments.
Aside from the already established darkness the album exudes, the album remains noticeably melodic. Instances of controlled chaos or dissonance are apparent, but the album revels in its surge, flowing without any absence of eloquence. Atmosphere is everything in a genre which is based around slower tempos, and whether it is from a distinctive attempt at creating a penetrating soundscape, or simply a focus on the interplay between the musical variables, actually making out the various parts of the music are essential in truly grasping their effect. Good production is not a necessity, but it needs to be done cleverly in order to fulfill the aforementioned point. In this respect, Skepticism have not only done a clever job of the production on Alloy
, but it’s also one of the best produced doom albums I’ve ever heard. As already mentioned, the collusion between the organs and the guitars is done in such a way that it not only allows for both instruments to leave their mark, but unites them both in an imbuing and dense wall of sound. This gives the album even more room to diversify, allowing the two respective driving forces of the album to occasionally separate. Moments towards the beginning of ‘Pendulum’ are a good example of this, where the organs provide the melody and the guitars are nothing short of crushing.
is just sublime. Various levels of gutturals simply meld with the album’s ambience, and whether it be a dual effect of growls and despondent shouts as seen on ‘The Curtain’, or spoken word as seen on ‘March October’, the vocals are very much in line with the tonality of the album; the vocals, like almost everything else, fit perfectly in accordance with the album’s mood and structure. Songwriting this involved is a rarity, and Skepticism have to be commended for their ability to make everything sound so natural and genuine. There are no breaks, no flaws, absolutely nothing that diminishes the grandeur of the album; Alloy
is a majestic sojourn into wistfulness, appropriating a vast magnitude of emotions.
A good word that can be used to describe Alloy
would be ‘colossal’. Whether it be a far reaching melody, an uplifting mood, or an overwhelmingly thick thrust of heaviness, it is safe to say that Skepticism have done absolutely everything right with this album. The pensive moments coincide in perfect assonance with the heightened tempos, the effect of the organ gives the album an unprecedented fluidity, the vocals contribute to said fluidity all while personifying the album and giving it a character, a complexion, a personality. Alloy
is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, if not ever. It shatters any preconceived notions of a ‘good’ doom album, and yet again raises the benchmark to which all doom albums, or even all metal albums, should be pushing. Highly recommended.