By Sean Palmerston
A lot has happened in the world of hard rock and metal since Blood Ceremony released their self-titled debut some three years ago. Most surprisingly has been the reemergence of female fronted occult tinged bands. In no short time, an entire scene has emerged which includes bands such as The Devil’s Blood, Jex Thoth, etc., most of which released their debuts in and around the same time (early 2008). While I am sure that fact is probably more coincidental than anything, it is pretty fascinating in its own way.
Blood Ceremony’s 2008 debut was an album that was of great interest, as they were a local band formed and based in Toronto, Ontario. The first Canadian band signed to Rise Above since Sheavy in the late 90s, their self-titled debut was a decent enough debut album that seemed to be a wee bit disjointed overall. It had all of the right elements and some really good songs, but on a whole it didn’t flow particularly well. It was instead a collection of songs best taken in small doses. This is something that has been corrected for album number two.
Living With The Ancients still has much of the same sound of the first album, but things have been put together much better second time out. The band (thanks to a new bassist) is a tighter, more focused unit than they were on the debut, the song-writing chops have been tightened up a bit and the album production this time around, courtesy of current go-to-guy Sanford Parker, is a perfect fit. Although he is most well known for his work with heavier, more extreme bands, Parker has given this album a nice, warm sound that has thuddy 70s sounding drums, an airy but heavy guitar tone and lots of room for wailing Hammond organs and shrilling flutes. I bet this album will sound fantastic on vinyl (although having said that, good luck finding it in Canada without having to resort to mail-ordering it directly from Rise Above themselves).
As for the songs themselves, this sophomore album has some really great ones. “The Great God Pan” is an excellent album opener, with some strong guitar riffing underpinned and accented by some tasty organ in the song’s breakdown.”The Hermit” explores 60s style pastoral folk, giving vocalist Alia O’Brien a chance to solo on the flute. It’s a beautiful piece that may not resonate with some metal heads but will definitely appeal to those open minded enough to already know who Mellow Candle is. The band seems to really shine on their longer, more epic tracks. There are three songs here that stretch over the seven-minute mark, including the aforementioned opening track. The layered chorus vocals on the eight minute “Oliver Haddo” gives it an extremely haunting feel, while the ten minute closing track “Daughter of The Sun” has some tasty cowbell and tambourine action to start things off before heading in an entirely different direction altogether.
Living With The Ancients is a strong step forward for a band that is definitely on its way to making its mark. I’m looking forward to seeing if they can pull this stuff off live too.
(Rise Above / Metal Blade)