It would appear that the Devil is back in fashion. I’m not entirely sure he actually went out of fashion but there has undoubtedly been something of a renaissance in occult rock and metal- the brilliant, theatrical misanthropy of Ghost, the dark, organic metal of Electric Wizard, the pure occultism of The Devil’s Blood have all had seriously creative moments of late, adding to the general air of sulphurous menace.
This re-release of Blood Ceremony‘s self titled 2008 debut album capitalizes on this recent resurgence and is well worthy of investigation, especially if, like me, you’re new to their particular brand of psychedelia influenced doom rock. Like most doom rock bands, Blood Ceremony have undoubtedly been influenced by Black Sabbath and their use of the flute to underscore their off centre and queasy riff making will also have listeners heading back to their Jethro Tull records. However, and this is no surprise given their North American homeland, Blood Ceremony are pretty much obsessed with Virginia’s Pentagram– this, you will understand, falls into the category of being a very good thing indeed. Readers of a certain age- probably older than yours truly- will doubtless hear echoes of 1960s mental metal cases Black Widow in the grooves of this intriguing and often beguiling record.
There’s something of a 1970s aesthetic running through Blood Ceremony: whether it’s in the straightforward hard rock architecture that supports ‘Master of Confusion’ or the proggy undertones that envelop ‘I’m Coming with You,’ you get a sense that this is a band that have drunk long and deep at the altar of some of the 1970s key protagonists; that you don’t feel any kind of karaoke hangover is testament to their talent and invention. Let’s be fair, you know what’s in store with a track like ‘Into the Coven’ and the band deliver exactly what you expect. Likewise, the playful and mischievous ‘The Rare Lord’ dabbles with necromancy and magic with aplomb and panache, enhanced by the ethereal vocal talents of lead singer Alia O’Brien. It’s her voice in particular that shines throughout this record. She’s no four octave diva but something altogether more nuanced and inviting.
Blood Ceremony‘s approach to music making is much earthier and more open minded, stylistically, than you might at first assume and this is to be welcomed. Theirs is a world of dark faeries and daemons, of natural mysticism, pagan ritual and ceremonial blood letting. Their delivery of such a menu is handled with a lightness and deftness of touch; you’re coaxed and compelled to join their particular dark corner of the universe rather than, as is sometimes the case with lesser talents, bludgeoned into aural submission. All in all, then, a pretty damn fine record and worthy, to these ears of a solid, devil horned 8/10!