Blood Ceremony – Living With The Ancients …   20 comments

I am sure this has been talked about before in relation to Blood Ceremony but in December 1968, a young Tony Iommi briefly joined a band called Jethro Tull. Although this partnership ended after only one performance before Iommi returned to Earth and eventually Black Sabbath, most still wonder what would have become of the sound of Tull if it had have continued. Maybe the closest clue to that hypothetical lies in this band known as Blood Ceremony as there has never been a band with such a Sabbath meets Tull kind of sound. It has been nearly 3 years since the band released their very popular début which really was one of the first albums to start the ball rolling on the female-fronted, proto/retro doom band revival thing. Since that début album was released, dozens of similar acts have emerged of varying quality but one thing remains the same in my opinion and that is Blood Ceremony are still one of the best in the genre. The lynchpin that holds this group together is still singer/flautist/organist Alia O’Brien – take her out of the equation and this band would be very ordinary indeed and if the truth be known, she is a good flute player, a charismatic focal-point for the band but she hasn’t got much else going for her really. Her voice is a second-rate mix of Anne Wilson, Grace Slick, Robert Plant, Jinx Dawson et al and she has very little range or variance in her vocals at all so why is this band so popular? After all the riffs are nothing special either, they are really just child-like simple Sabbathian stuff but I think they are a good band, I am confused by all this so I am going to dig a little further.

First up there is the regressive nature of their music, like the album title suggests, they do sound ancient but they are no more back-dated than Saint Vitus or some other band. What makes them different is the flute and their folk-based melodies along with the sinister, occult vibe. The main stumbling block with “Living with the Ancients” is people will compare it with the first album and pick holes in it because of it. Also after waiting nearly 3 years you could be forgiven for thinking this album is going to be something bigger, more spectacular, more complex and better produced. The truth is, none of those things have happen. This album carries on where the first album left off but could be considered more commercial overall depending on your own interpretation. Album opener “The Great God Pan” is something of a retro, psychedelic doom rock opera kind of track and it does have the menace and the sinister vibe you would expect from Blood Ceremony but it is also pretty pedestrian and predictable. “Coven Tree” is a better track, in fact this tune rocks. With riffs that sound like they could have been written by Iommi himself to the dynamic flute playing, “Coven Tree” is possibly the best ever Blood Ceremony track. From there it goes into “The Hermit” which is basically one long flute solo and is pretty boring. “My Demon Brother, Morning of the Magicians” and “Oliver Haddo” is just indistinguishable mediocrity (although “Morning of the Magicians” has a good groove) and if you have heard the first album, you may feel like you have heard these songs before. Nothing bad about these three tunes but they are nothing great either so therefore the middle part of the album is kind of dull, to me at least.

The album bounces back in a big way with “Night of Augury” which is a psychedelic, prog rock, doom metal hybrid of a track that sounds straight out of 1971 with the murky instrumentation to match. Crank this track up and watch the dust fly out of the speakers, it is old-school ambience and technique on display here but rather than recycling something out of your Dad’s moldy record collection, it actually reinvent’s the style in some ways. It sounds old and fresh at the same time, this is easily for me, the albums highpoint. “Living with the Ancients” ends on “The Witch’s Dance” and “Daughter of the Sun” which is two tracks brimming with sinister atmosphere and hypnotic, alluring musical passages. Blood Ceremony fans will no doubt call this a masterpiece but those people still sitting on the fence will remained unmoved and if you didn’t like the band the first time around, this won’t do anything to change your mind. I rate this album slighty below the first album, overall it doesn’t flow as well and most of the songs are not as memorable. Out of nine tracks, only four really float my boat while five sound mediocre to average at best so yes I am a little disappointed. The weaknesses of Blood Ceremony have stayed the same, the music needs to be more powerful, more distorted, more heavy than it is. The sounds are lighter than that of their 70’s counterparts and they still sound a little thin but they do rock at times. One thing that can’t be faulted on is their authentic 70’s sound, the drums especially have that cardboard like thud like most late 60’s and early 70’s records. Alia O’Brien still sings in that mesmerizing monotone but her flute playing is more dynamic than ever before and guitarist Sean Kennedy’s work is smoking at times.

Their Myspace bio reads – “We’re anti-war, but pro-horror. Standing before the crimson altar, our minds melted as we gazed into the cosmic eye. Now we slay the stages of the universe with heavy riffs, paranoia-inducing trills and ’70s fills” – damn straight.

Their influences read – “Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, The Who, Pentagram, Deep Purple, Black Widow, May Blitz, Bang, T2, Witchcraft, Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General, Bedemon, ’70s Italian prog, Randy Holden’s Population II, Coven, Necromandus, Euro-horror films, gothic castles, vintage porn, mystical forests, tarot cards, fuzz pedals, candlelit chambers, beardy-weirdies, freak-outs” – Yes, you hear, see all that and more with Blood Ceremony.

Epilogue – I may not be floored by “Living with the Ancients” but I am sure some people will burst their bell-bottoms when they hear this. This female-fronted occult retro-doom is very trendy at the moment but there is no finer band than Blood Ceremony but what that says about the style might not be saying that much at all. Whatever side of the retro-doom fence you live on, it doesn’t matter. You probably won’t hear anything better than this released this year that has these kind of ancient 70’s grooves and feels. I feel the time for this style and sound is starting to wear a little thin and this sound won’t be timeless forever so climb aboard while its hot, I think you will enjoy the ride and don’t forget to bring your hookah……7.5/10
Blood Ceremony @ Facebook
Blood Ceremony @ Myspace
Rise Above Records

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Posted March 5, 2011 by doommantia in Blood Ceremony

20 responses to “Blood Ceremony – Living With The Ancients …

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  1. Heard it last night, wasn't impressed.

  2. 100% accurate review, one more time…
    I would put a little higher score as these guys do an excellent job reviving late 60s folk sound!

  3. I like the album very much! But I'm a sucker for Blood Ceremony..

  4. Excellent review, I have listened to it a few times now and half of it sounds great to me, the other half is kind of boring. I would have gave it a 6 at best.

  5. Am I missing something, Blood Ceremony sound pretty weak to me, Their sound is thin and her vocals are so dull. I don't get it.

  6. I think their first album was better. This one hasn't grabbed me yet.

  7. I don't know guys but every time I hear a song from this band, the first minute sounds great and then I get bored. Anybody else feel this way? It might the female vocal thing because Jex Thoth bore me even more.

  8. I will go one step further, I find them to be the most overrated band in the doom scene. To me they are just boring, I know they are the hipster band of the moment along with Ghost and a few others but I really don't understand what the fuss is about. The riffs and just c-level Sabbathian and the rest is just a poor-mans hard rock version of Jethro Tull but without any of the class or imagination.

  9. This is a band that never seems to get better or worse, but just kind of bask in their own tedious mediocrity.

  10. I am really surprised by all the negative comments here. Only 2 out of 9 have been positive, I am not a huge fan either but this is a eye opening turn of events.

  11. Feedbacks coming into Doommantia has been 95% negative?

    It is also well known that 95% of people are serious dumbasses… this is a pretty good record !

  12. Anonymous said…

    Feedbacks coming into Doommantia has been 95% negative?

    It is also well known that 95% of people are serious dumbasses… this is a pretty good record !

    It surprised me more than anyone !
    Well, people defend yourself. Explain why you don't like it !

  13. Different strokes for different folks……..I dig it.

  14. Anonymous said…

    Feedbacks coming into Doommantia has been 95% negative?

    It is also well known that 95% of people are serious dumbasses… this is a pretty good record !

    Maybe your the dumbass, don't put me down just because I don't like the same album as you. You should have deleted that comment ed, it is a retarded comment.

    You want some reasons why I don't like it, here is 3.

    1. I find the monotone vocals, boring and lacking any emotion or power.

    2. As a huge doom fan, I don't anything on this too 'doomy' at all and the riffs are pure stock-standard.

    3. There is no dynamics, everything sounds flat and lifeless.

  15. At least they are better than Ghost…oh hang on, that is just about every band on the planet lol.

    Seriously though, this album is mediocre and I am sure most people could find something a lot better to waste their money on.

  16. Ok I will stick up for them, I think they are pretty good and this is a decent album. I got it yesterday but I have to say, I think their first album had better songs.

  17. If you are looking for something new and different
    why even bother with a retro band? Cmon!
    They sound Real good for their genre; From their album sound I think they have been conce3ntrating on sounding better live. These bands play a lot of small spaces and god it sounds awful if they go too “Big” and Fat, so they have a little leaner mix this time around.
    This definitely does qualify as a sophomore outing, but who knows what those groovy kids will be buying next week , eh? I for one welcome them as endearing hellspawn, and man it makes mowing the lawn less of a chore with them playin' in my ears.

  18. I haven't been impressed by this album yet, but I could see it coming! Although I am not impressed, I would say that I'm relieved! Finally they release some new stuff – that suits me just fine.
    And another thing, I think that Coven Tree is one of the best tracks on the album – the track really brings out the 70's folk and prog spirit in the vein of Jethro Tull, Comus and Black Widow.

    the Savage Hippie
  19. The album is a grower, I will say that much about it.

  20. damn good album… vocals could be mixed a little louder but still awesome retro hard rock!

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