Skepticism and Pantheist, St Giles In The Fields Church, London, 28th January 2012
Words and photos by Antony Roberts
Finland’s Skepticism may have formed back in 1991 but they had never made it to the British Isles in the 21 years since their conception. This last weekend brought about a halting to their abstinence, as they showcased a monstrous live performance in London.
The setting was St Giles In The Fields Church in Holborn right in the heart of the capital. Built in the 18th century on a site that had seen a chapel standing on it’s ground as farback as 1101. Boasting a graveyard that has buried within, the first victims of the Great Plague, it was beyond the perfect setting for this once in a lifetime experience. From the outside it looked like any normal church, hiding the secret that was to be unleashed from within, were it not for the large gathering of beards, black clothes and long hair outside.
Upon entry the setting created a very odd feeling, inside it looked like a church, it smelt like a church, yet the giant PA stack adorning either side of the drum kit, amps, keyboards and organs on stage indicating this was to be no normal sermon.
Pantheist took to the stage opening up with One of These Funerals the opening track from last year’s self titled album. For those unfamiliar with Pantheist, the nearest “big” band comparison is My Dying Bride, but with the keyboards taking a much more prominent role in the overall sound. As smoke drifted in, they stood casting silhouettes bathed in the backlighting, the band like clouds forming crepuscular rays on a cold winters dusk. Unusually for a non dance act they had a giant laser creating scenes within the church, reminiscent of Birmingham’s Que Club. The keyboard rang out with church organ sounds and we were underway. Any qualms I had of the church hall’s giant expanse causing too much reverb were quickly laid to rest, the sound was epic. Drawing heavily on their new album for the set, the new songs sounded even grander filling the hall, Pepijn’s guitar leads soared over the keyboards. Finishing their set with a grandiose version of Be Here, I risk vilification but some of the more whispered bridge build ups towards the chorus remind me of Queensryche’s Silent Lucidity. This is one of the longest songs on the new album, yet probably one of the most clean and accessible for non doom fans. With applause echoing around the church Pantheist left the stage, leaving it ready for the momentous rarity of Skepticism in the British Isles.
One of these funerals
The Loss of Innocence
Skepticism picked up their instruments to prepare their onslaught whilst singer Matti sat in a giant altar chair, donning evening dinner attire and holding a bunch of white roses. Organ tones created a completely morbid chill around the hall as the drummers giant beaters thundered in the intro to The March and the Stream. After several minutes Matti rose slowly taking the mic and breathed out his foreboding and deep range. The vocals seemed a lot higher in the mix than the recording of Ethere and it just added to the sheer deathly tone of the church surroundings. Trying to sum up just how full, epic, morbid, downright dark and yet majestic it was in words seems nigh on impossible. In the nicest way the sound felt like death had risen out of the floor underneath me and had a vice like grip on my balls trying to pull me down into the depths of hell. The lighting was amazing especially for a photographer like myself, but the music was simply too great. Camera down I rested my eyes soaking up the tones of the macabre throng as others scrambled around me. Time flew by as I sat there in awe, even now trying to think back it’s all just one giant indescribable hour of one of the finest performances i’ve ever witnessed. As the Sign of a Storm came to an end met by rapturous applause the band thanked the audience announcing that “sadly now I think it is time for the last song, or maybe if you’re loud enough two more”. Slightly panicked I looked down at my watch, sadly for me with the gig running slightly over it was time to head (speedily) for last trains as The Organium started in.
I’m not sure what makes me more depressed, the fact that this is probably the only time I will get to see Skepticism, or the fact it’s only January and I don’t think I will see a better gig in 2012.
Please come back soon…
1. The March and the Stream
2. The Arrival
3. Oars in the Dusk
5. March October
7. By Silent Wings
8. Sign of a Storm
9. THE ORGANIUM
10: The Everdarkgreen