BLOOD CEREMONY - Living with the Ancients CD
Rise Above Records
Genre: Doom/70's Hard Fuckin Rock
The 70's are back, in a way that is. The new Doom is to hump the corpses of every band from the 1970s that you can find a record by in the dollar bins at your local Used & Abused store. Lets be honest here, people have been fucking the corpse of SABBATH as well as a few other 70's bands for a long time now in the name of Doom. Sometimes it sounds pretty damm good and other times it's reinventing the past by slapping a new label on it. BLOOD CEREMONY does both fairly well and I like em for it. Unfortunately for all of the musical greatness (or reinventedness) from their 2008 self titled debut it only became an exercise for clueless hipster critics to type "SABBATH" as many times as possible when describing em. BLOOD CEREMONY are a four piece act from Toronto, Canada and musician wise they are guitar, bass, drums with a female vocalist who also performs keyboards and the flute. As far as the SABBATH influence goes yeah there's some but only enough to fit under guitarist Sean Kennedy's pinky fingernail. There's so much more going on with this band's music that to just name drop one band from the 70's does them a disservice. I should know since I grew up in the 60s and 70s with the music of that era. It also shows why hipsters need to be removed from music criticism altogether so they can go back to writing blurbs about theme dining, fruity beers, homo-erotic art and Twilight sequels.
While listening to this their sophomore release it's like someone took a slew of bands from the 70s, threw em into a blender and then handed out the remains for this band to retro-fit for modern times. This is not something new to extreme music in fact it's been going on for 20 years now. Aside from Alia O'Brien's vocals, which are superb, it's her talent on keyboards and flute that add so much to this and give it that retro feel. Of course on the opener "The Great God Pan" they come off sounding like a stoner version of the DTs or even the DETROIT COBRAS. It's that vocal harmony before the basic riff kicks in. The song is a rocker first and foremost at it's beginning stage then reverts into something sounding like it was off of PROCOL HARUM''s Broken Barricades LP. Instead of Matthew Fisher on the Hammond organ and Robin Trower on guitar trading solos it's O'Brien and Kennedy. "Coven Tree" is a bluesy number accented by O'Brien's ability to come across sounding like a soulful ghost calling out from the darkness. Another great addition is her flute soloing on "Coven Tree" which calls to mind other past flautists from 70's hard rock like Thijs van Leer, Ray Thomas or the more obvious name-drop, Ian Anderson. In fact on the the third cut, an instrumental entitled "The Hermit", it does remind me of one of those short instros that Ray Thomas would insert into a MOODY BLUES album from the early 70s. The same can be said for the second instrumental track, "The Witch's Dance", which comes near the end of the release.
"My Demon Brother" will get people comparing BLOOD CEREMONY to JEX THOTH except on here it's more URIAH HEEP ( ala Ken Hensley on keyboards and Mick Box on guitar) than IRON BUTTERFLY on bad acid. It's that heavy doom effect use of the keyboards coupled with the occult rock theme to the lyrics, the guitar/keyboard solo trade-offs plus female vocals which you can't escape comparisons. The same theme follows on the next cut "Morning of the Magicians" except for the added Martin Barre meets Tony Iommi riffs and flute soloing that would shake the cow shit from Ian Anderson's cottage farm rubbers. The bonus is how O'Brien's vocals on here come off in a haunting folk kind of way. The song shifts at it's midpoint from rocking to melancholy, very cool. "Oliver Haddo" is a pure JETHRO HEEP SABBATH hybrid sound which will have the heads of 70's retro rock worshippers exploding. If there's some obvious SABBATH worship on this release it comes at the opening riff of this song. "Night of Augury" sounds like URIAH HEEP with female vocals and O'Brien raises her vocal range a little higher on this cut then the previous ones. The cut ends with an instrumental jam session, which is incredible, then it returns to the beginning sequence. The final cut on here "Daughter of the Sun" is like every great ingredient from this release packed into a ten plus minute opus.
A jaded observer could look at this review and say "welcome to mr. wolf's name drop marathon." That's fine since that same self centered coffee house worm would not like BLOOD CEREMONY for their mining of the 70's. Personally I think BLOOD CEREMONY has mined for influences and they've struck gold. When in comes to a lot of these new bands in the Doom genre, fraud is a competitive sport. Stoner/Sludge is the new Indie Rock where the lion's share of those newbie bands and the hipsters who love em make no effort to point out how they're just recycling Tony Iommi's riffs from thirty years ago. What makes a band like BLOOD CEREMONY, as well as two other favorites of mine CAUCHEMAR and ORCHID, much better is how their sound comes across more like sincere homage than a ripoff. What this band has done is to remind me what it was like when I was a nine year old kid in 1973 getting into all the cool bands of that era while my peers were listening to pop crap or nothing at all. Amazingly enough here I am today still listening to better sounds than the typical hypster tool. That's why I consider Living with the Ancients to be one of the best releases for 2011.