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Skepticism : Farmakon

What an album. It does wander from 9/10 to 10/10 depending on being in the right mode. At one point I reckoned this to be the best album ever made, but I've reigned back from that now. Still unmistakable Skepticism with that church organ beating out the funeral dirges, this one's their most progressive metal album to date, not in playing technique, but in composition. The feeling is of one journey; moods change cleverly without necessarily keys changing. The simple, unprocessed, wandering lead guitar, taking on the role of a wandering bass, adds to this feel of wandering through experience, whilst other guitars fade in and out of the mix as if portraying the emotions felt on the way.

Hearing this many times now, I'm tempted to say this is a concept album. After the cave and forest exploration of 'The Raven and the Backward Funeral', 'Shred of Light' is just that. It's as if you enter a glade, a chink in the oppressive woodland gloom, and it really does elevate the mood by lifting the 2-ton weight off your chest and allows a bit of refreshing bitterness and brooding anger into the equation. 'Farmakon Process' has a mechanistic process feel to it. With its crashes and almost epic feel, you can't help to think that Skepticism are making something here, perhaps an iron man for the next 'Sabbath reunion, or a set of coffins for their live act.

The untitled 4th track (shown as a rip on the back cover) is a stunner, a smoothing drone, building up to the body of the composition, which continues to build and pick up speed (yes, speed... for Skepticism!!!), and builds up tension like a pressure cooker. An American Indian style drumbeat is a constant thread such that even when the music stops dead the beat goes on. Actually, the heavy breathing at the end makes it more like the time-beater on a galley ship keeping the oarsmen synchronised. You feel knackered at the end of it. Even if this isn't the best album ever made, this has to be a contender for one of the best tracks. I could rant on about this track forever, but moving on...

'Nowhere' and 'Nothing' have to be the sisters of nihilism, at least in name. They actually have that faster pace and strange gloomy uplifting quality, which sound a contradiction in terms but, then again, it depends on how much pleasure you get from your misery. And that strange 'sour' sounding, wandering guitar reappears as if to reinforce the connection with earlier tracks. 'Nothing' slows it down for the sort of finale you'd expect from Skepticism. If you were to paint a picture by covering canvass in it's entirety with black paint, and then call it a self portrait, that just about sums up the track and the album. It's not blanket dirge, it's not just about hopeless doom, it has all sorts of elements of negativity in it, making it complex and multi-perceptional.

This is an album to be listened to with respect, unrushed and in the right mood. If you down the best wine in the world in one gulp, it'll taste like plonk.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. The Raven and the Backward Funeral
2. Shred of Light, Pinch of Endless
3. Farmakon Process
4. [untitled]
5. Nowhere
6. Nothing

Duration : Approx. 62 minutes

Visit the Skepticism bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Malcolm Fuller
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