There are two touchstones that every press release or review regarding this album is bound by law to invoke: Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull. I figure that getting these inevitable references out of the way now is best for everybody involved. As cliché as it is to fall back on tired x + y comparisons, I still haven’t hit upon a more direct way of encapsulating Blood Ceremony’s take on psychedelic doom.
Bright, trebly, yet undeniably heavy guitar riffs form the core of Blood Ceremony’s sound, buzzing with clarity not typically found amidst the sludge of doom. At the heart of each song is a Sabbathian guitar riff or two stretched to epic lengths. Blood Ceremony get lost in some pretty heavy grooves, but each song feels appropriately tight and structured, with only one track crossing the seven-minute mark. Nothing here feels indulgent, despite the occasional flirtations with prog rock, nor do they ever sound as unidirectional and myopic as some other doom acts. Blood Ceremony takes their psych pedigree seriously and tosses enough twists, turns, and unexpected climaxes into each song to keep things fresh and appropriately cosmic.
There are a few unique touches that give Blood Ceremony an unmistakable sound. First, and most prominent, are the jazz-inflected flute solos that wind through each track, weaving complex and serpentine melodies into the space between chords. This welcome addition gives the music an unexpected grace, often providing the necessary melodic hook to guide the listener’s ear through rolling waves of distorted guitar. This is a band that doesn’t assault the listener, but isn’t content to just groove hypnotically either. While there is a time and place for both of those approaches, Blood Ceremony’s commitment to writing engaging, propulsive songs is downright refreshing in a genre that often seems like a contest to see who can play the heaviest music.
Another wonderful and unique touch are the vocals provided by Alia O’Brien, recalling at various times the syrupy rich sounds of Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane), Victoria Legrand (Beach House), and Nico. Her powerful contralto voice sounds confident, assured, and undeniably charismatic on these tracks. Perhaps it is not surprising that she is also responsible for the aforementioned flute passages and the bits of organ sprinkled throughout the proceedings. While the rest of the band provides the necessary muscle, O’Brien imbues each song with her distinct sense for melody and atmosphere.
Where a lot of doom can become a sort of endurance test, Blood Ceremony remains inviting and rich. The whole record carries a warm, mystical vibe. Despite the band’s occult leanings, there is nothing too ridiculously witchy here. They’ve managed to borrow the most enchanting and seductive aspects of their influences without succumbing to any of the self-indulgent trappings. I would never call Blood Ceremony ironic, but you get the sense that they’re having a lot of fun with what they are doing.
I don’t know a person whom I couldn’t recommend this album to. Like a folksier Black Sabbath or a heavier Fairport Convention, Blood Ceremony plays music that taps into a deep and ancient wellspring of sound and imagery. Whether you are into heavy metal, indie folk, psychedelic jams, or classic rock, you will undoubtedly find something to like, if not love, in this record. If this kind of occult-inspired psych-doom is your trip, I guarantee you will love this. And if it isn’t your trip, then maybe this record will be the one to turn you on to it.Powered by Sidelines