By Lord Randall

With the current scenesterism and popularity of doom-influenced rock/metal these days (who'da thunk it?!), it warms this old, ashen heart to no end that the more extreme ends of the spectrum – your Nightfall/Forest Of Equilibrium/Stream From The Heavens fanbase - seems relatively unaffected. If you didn't have to look up the bands that delivered the aforementioned masterpieces, you're part of it.

 Finland's SKEPTICISM is most assuredly part of the holy trinity of funeral doom, and where more appropriate to call forth that spirit of finality than in a church?

 "Ordeal", the quintet's 5th full-length in 20 years, finds the band eschewing the confines of the studio and recording the album live in one take before an audience. Now that takes some balls, friends. With song lengths spanning from 6:58 to 12:27, and given the environment and cohesion of the pieces, a track-by-track notation would not only be pointless, it would be a disservice to what SKEPTICISM is trying to – and does – achieve within "Ordeal". From the subtle beauty of opener 'You' to the crushing majesty of 'Momentary' and on through the towering, thundering (sometimes bordering on martial) work of art that is 'Closing Music', it's clear the Finns were ready for the challenge presented. The applause between tracks doesn't so much detract as lend an air of intimacy, of truly experiencing the album with those in attendance, a feeling which the accompanying DVD will surely illuminate further.

 As it stands, along with KATATONIA's "Sanctitude" and the inimitable "Toward The Within" from DEAD CAN DANCE, "Ordeal" becomes one of the truest examples of using a space's natural acoustics and a band's mystical ability to fill said space with sound and silence in recent memory. Exquisite, forlorn and triumphant.