By Gruesome Greg
Man, I was into Blood Ceremony before being into Blood Ceremony was cool. Saw these guys for the first time in ’06—entirely by accident—and have followed their career ever since. Of their first two albums, I still prefer the debut; sophomore effort Living with the Ancients strays somewhat from traditional doom into more progressive territory, but has grown on me over time. That said, I’m still the guy who wishes they’d play more old stuff in their live set…
Suffice to say I`ve heard several of these songs in concert, though I haven`t quite connected them to their titles until now.
Opening track “Witchwood” begins with a warm, ringing riff that’s definitely more prog than doom, before giving way to an organ interlude. It kicks into a warm, retro-fied groove, with perhaps a bit of reverb adding bite to Alia O’Brien’s venomous vocals. I like how this slows down into an ominous instro break for a laid-back section that’s more gloomy than doomy. Oh, and killer flute solo!
A stirring flute passage also begins “Goodbye Gemini,” which adopts a faster, more-upbeat approach, albeit with a relaxed chorus that comes off as kinda poppy—up until that big, burly riff at its apex. Really like the guitar/flute tradeoff solo on this one, though it’s a bit too brief. “Lord Summerisle” slows things right down to medieval balladry, with O’Brien actually singing backup to bassist Lucas Gadke. Did not see that coming. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the flute works well here, also.
A solid doom riff begins “Ballad of the Weird Sisters,” although this is more sea shanty than Black Sabbath. In a crazy coincidence, I’m pretty sure I grew up in Calgary with the guy who plays violin on this track. Some pretty solid fiddling, I must say. But yeah, at this point, it would be pretty hard to label this record as “doom,” or even metal, for that matter. (I’d probably go with “occult rock.” Try finding that section in your nearest record store…)
The title track sounds right at home with some of the older stuff in their set. In fact, its opening/chorus riff sounds an awful lot like the intro to “Return to Forever”—just add keyboard, then flute. And there’s no denying the doominess of the slow section that starts around 2:20. They even namedrop Candlemass! (Well, Candlemas Eve, anyways.) On a related note, “Drawing Down the Moon” welcomes you to the Sabbat with some swirling keys and a shuffling beat. While it does have somewhat of a swinging sixties feel, the only real similarity between this and Black Window is the subject matter. A killer keyboard solo signals a change of pulse to a pummeling hard-rock pace, and yes, it even contains cowbell. Pretty vicious one-two punch, right here…
After a brief instrumental interlude (“Faunus”), we’re treated to an eight-minute ending epic in “The Magician.” This one has shades of “Hymn to Pan,” or even “Oliver Haddo” (who they mention in the lyrics), with its slithering riffs and shrieking flute accents… all of which makes me a happy camper.
Alas, while part of me is still pining for the s/t, I’m digging this new direction as well.