Review Summary: Ambient Metal from Finland
The Finnish band Skepticism, pioneers of what is typically referred to as Funeral Doom, released their debut Stormcrowfleet
in 1995. With Death and Black Metal being beyond their creative apex at the time, Skepticism opt for new terrain, creating an album that does not quite sound like any metal that went before it.
Despite the genre classification, the music on this album bears little resemblance to Doom Metal like Candlemass. Neither does it have a whole lot of similarities to typical Death/Doom hybrid bands with the only parallel being a focus on slow tempo. Where Candlemass essentially just made slow Heavy Metal and Death/Doom hypbrids took the typical fast pace out of what was otherwise still riff-driven Death Metal in its basic nature, Skepticism create a sound that is more akin to the ambient Black Metal style that emerged toward the end of the second wave in Norway, consisting of albums such as Hvis lyset tar oss
, Vikingligr Veldi
. Skepticism make heavy use of keyboards, repitition and lengthy songs in a fashion similar to the aforementioned albums with an unusually linear approach in song writing. A song passage that has once drawn to a close is unlikely to be repeated in an unaltered way at another point in the song. Sometimes, however, musical references occur across songs, as is the case in the first two tracks, where the prominent keyboard line from 'Sign of a Storm' is paraphrased in the second song 'Pouring'. As a result of this approach the songs do not retain strong individual identities but instead, a sense of coherence for the album in its entirety is preserved.
Guitars and keyboards are more or less on equal footing as leading instruments of the music, sometimes playing alone, sometimes in conjunction, with one providing a back ground for the other to develop an extended melody on top or both playing individual melodies slowly creeping in opposite directions. Occasionally one of the instruments will suprisingly break through the ambience to guide the song into different territory, infusing it with new power and determination. At other times a violent storm is unleashed after a long period of unsettling silence. Drumming lends support with simple beats or just individual tom or cymbal hits. The growls narrate the lyrics in a manner that is in accordance with the ponderous nature of the rest of the music, offering little in the way of rhythmic excitement but adding to the overall ambience that is being generated by the leading instruments. In doing this, vocalist Matti Tilaeus sounds like a dying god casting his wrath from the skies onto a world that has forsaken him.
As such, Stormcrowfleet
embodies the sound of departure, evanescence and mortality. It exemplifies the divide between aeons while showing glimpses of almost forgotten memories and hope in a sea of endless, overpowering riffs that, slowly but inevitably, crawl towards an uncertain future, beyond anyone's power to change course.