Blood Ceremony – Living with the Ancients
When I first heard about the band Blood Ceremony, the description that made me most curious was that they sounded like a Grace Slick fronted Jethro Tull doing Black Sabbath covers. It was an apt description. The band plays a classic Black Sabbath style doom, but with a flute and a female vocalist. Their self-titled debut was released in 2008, although I didn’t actually hear it until late 2009. The album was something completely different. Prior to it, the aforementioned Jethro Tull was the only real reference point for flute in rock. So it was a pleasing surprise to hear someone take the flute and apply it to something different, something much heavier and much darker.
With their follow-up, “Living with the Ancients”, the band picks up right where the left off, not to say it’s a simple rehash, but it does continues in the same vein. This album once again creates what could be called a nocturnal atmosphere, one that would not sound out of place as the soundtrack to rituals being performed by shadowy cloaked figures dancing around a fire in the middle of an ancient forest on a moonlit night.
The music is formed on a solid rhythmic foundation provided by the bass playing of Lucas Gadke and the exceptional drum work of Andrew Haust, along with the organ of vocalist Alia O’Brien. Their tight rhythms provide a perfect back drop for the crisp guitars of Sean Kennedy, whose riffs flow right along within the groove. But what really sets their music apart is the flute, also performed by O’Brien. Played at times almost like the lead guitar and more subtle at other times, it twists and turns throughout the music, creating a unique sound. The flutes, along with the tone and style of the singing at times create a medieval minstrel quality, which combined with elements of folk, prog, and the prevalent sabbathy doom add to the overall darkened psychedelic vibe of the album. Vocally, O’Brien’s voice is a little sultry, with a classic style that’s somewhat monotone, but it works very well with the music here. Lyrically, it’s full of occult imagery, a ‘70s horror and all around black magic witchery, which, again works well with the music.
This album brings to mind a few other recent releases, the excellent “No Help for the Mighty One” by Subrosa and the superb Grayceon album “All We Destroy.” Both albums also feature strong female vocalists and instruments that are rare in the metal world, violins (Subrosa) & cello (Greyceon). All three albums have unique sounds that pull from the past but are firmly rooted in the present, but where the violin and cello are string instruments and their sound fits a bit more naturally around the guitars, the flute, being a wind instrument, isn’t quite as natural. However, it’s that contrast that makes Blood Ceremony’s music so interesting.
While “Living with the Ancients” doesn’t differ much from their debut, they have continued to develop and expand their sound ad have delivered an excellent sophomore album.