Sound — 10
Ever since its release in 1995 Skepticism's Stormcrowfleet has been a testament to how funeral doom should be played. The record is a journey through bleak landscapes, the decaying guitar sound spiced up with minimal keyboards and ambient, distant drums. The riffs shift like tides of the sea, with a majestic, funereal atmosphere that seems to seep in from the beginnings of time. This is something that so many bands try to achieve, but often fail in capturing that exact feeling of celebrating waste and death which makes Stormcrowfleet so effective. Whereas many funeral doom acts try to push the boundaries of how slow a riff could be played, and how heavy and thunderous the instruments are, Skepticism play their music with an unmatched raw emotion; a listener is thrown into an environment where all possible avenues of salvation have been tried and failed, and all that's left is this final expression of everything that the four-piece had locked away within them for years. The record begins with Sing of a Storm, a captivating and hypnotic song that largely defines the feel of the entire album; though this comes not in predictability, but rather in the mood and the raw approach. The production is good enough to hear everything, and drums on this song as well as on the entire album are clear and crisp without sounding too bright; at the same time there is a distinct raw, spontaneous feel to the playing and production of the guitars, vocals and keyboards, which at this point adds to the song. It is not apathy but acceptance of the inevitable. Pouring follows with a slightly heavier and a little more aggressive approach. The song meanders through it's eight minutes, occasionally slowing down or speeding up for variety. The production values remain the same as before, but there is a bit more energy here. This song is a bit more minimal, with far less keyboards. UK doom act Moss come to mind, though not quite as extreme. Not quite as memorable as the first track, it's nonetheless a great song with a definite promise of doom plenty of it. The following tracks are essentially the rest of the journey, musically not differing much from the first two songs. There is some great riffing towards the end of The Rising of the Flames; the chords ring out into the dark, practically pouring out of the speakers. It's slow, flowing, heavy and hypnotic; what else could you ask from a doom album?
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are touching mostly on nature themes as far as this album is concerned, and are really short sketches or images that leave plenty for the listener to fill in for themselves and decide upon the specific meaning. Without being overtly poetic, they are nonetheless well written and go with the music reasonably well. The sound of the songs hints more at introversion and self-exploration, so the topic may be slightly different from what one expects, but it works. The sketches come to life within the notes. The vocals are performed well, Matti's growls sounding semi-resigned. This approach works, though; more aggressive or forced vocals would have probably ruined the atmosphere and made the sound more intrusive, which would diminish from the songs.
Overall Impression — 10
A highly recommended album; I would go so far as to say it's a must for anyone into doom, into metal and into music in general. It's something that needs to be heard regardless of final likes and dislikes. The band went on to make more albums and EP's but left a debut album that they can be proud of. It is a great combination of good songwriting, adequate production to suit the album and vocals and lyrics that are worthy of the music. Can't say I have any complaints, I loved this record from the first time I heard it, and strongly believe that it's a very balanced and accomplished effort. The riffs aren't exactly crushing, but they are captivating and hypnotic in their execution, and the ambience of the sound provides for a distant, desolate and isolated feel. Good stuff.