he late DJ Screw’s particular brand of hip-hop frequently contained screwed mixes which would slow down popular hits to an almost snail’s pace, giving them a narcotic sheen with disconcerting breaks chopping into the glacial pace. Needless to say, to listen to DJ Screw and his predecessors is a depressing process. You can almost hear the cough syrup being poured over the track and into their mouths as everything slows down to a deathly pace.
Doom Metal occupies much the same space within the metal community, slowing down the complicated riffs and increasing the gloom that accompanies the already admitted dark genre. It’s as though by uncovering every single nuance of sound that we encounter a disturbing uncomfortableness with a genre that was previously an open book. What DJ Screw and Skepticism force is a re-evaluation of stereotypes, an admission that when slowed down these genres can be- and are- revealed as complex and engaging as any traditionally accepted types of music. And on Farmakon, Skepticism’s third full length album, we find metal at its most terrifying and, like DJ Screw, capable of intense depression.
The opener, “The Raven and the Backward Funeral,” begins the sludge with an organ that mimics one heard in church and a voice that works less as a lyrical device and more as a glaze that denotes the possibility of a narrative being constructed and the impossibility of ever being able to understand it without the help of liner notes. At times evoking an anthemic church vibe, the song winds its way towards a gradual fading of elements- the organ remains slightly beneath the surface of the drum and guitar combination, threatening to make its grand re-entrance at any time. And while it never does, the possibility is enough to keep the listener wondering.
Perhaps the highlight on the disc, the untitled fourth track, is a thirteen minute post-rock gem. Before the entrance of the vocals, it could perhaps be mistaken for something off of the Kranky label, its deliberate build-up sounding more like Stars of the Lid, than proper metal. But soon enough the mysterious vocals do emerge, growling again, this time supplemented by a set of horns. It’s a music rife with terror- at any moment the floodgates can open, releasing a torrent of guitar squall or high-speed drumming. But the beauty of Doom is in the tension that it evokes. Skepticism walk the tight line between anticipation and boredom well- and this track works perhaps the best, in this mode.
As Skepticism travels the narrow path that Doom Metal affords them, there are moments of boredom apparent, however. “Nowhere” features what should be a stirring chorus of guitar, drums, and bass but the general effect of their unison is one of unabashed simplicity, at the sake of some of the more interesting counter-melodic moments that occur earlier on in the album.
But the complaints are few and far between. Much like DJ Screw, Skepticism has offered up an interesting example of a genre that is generally underrepresented in mainstream circles. And while it rarely rises above its genre conventions, the quality is high enough to sweep these sorts of criticisms aside. An album that can go highly recommended for fans inside the genre, but not necessarily outside, Skepticism has once again done what they do best. And there’s not much else you can ask for, is there?