There is a line in ‘Witchwood’, the opening track on Blood Ceremony’s latest album “The Eldritch Dark” where singer Alia O’Brien forcefully tells us that “…the old ways remain”, and indeed they do as “The Eldritch Dark” – Blood Ceremony’s third album – is an album that resolutely sounds like it was recorded in 1971. Don’t take that as a negative, as “The Eldritch Dark” is as genuine an album as you’re likely to hear, but Blood Ceremony are a band that wear their influences on their sleeve and this album is a colossal blending of all of those influences into an effective amalgamation that is the most complete Blood Ceremony album yet.
Although there is a metal influence in their music, the overall sound is one of folk-tinged hard rock that has as much to do with Jethro Tull or Jefferson Airplane than it does with Black Sabbath, and when the band are in full-flight – like on the sublime ‘Ballad of the Weird Sisters’ – there is very little to touch them with regards to evoking the feeling of Olde England, witchcraft and folk superstition – not bad for a band from Canada. Elsewhere, they conjure up the haunting Celtic vibes of The Wicker Man with ‘Lord Summerisle’, where bassist Lucas Gadke provides vocals to harmonise with O’Brien and the effect is both beautiful and sinister at the same time.
The title track has a little more in the way of fully-formed guitar riffs and is as close to pure metal as the band gets, and sat amongst the album highlights of ‘Ballad of the Weird Sisters’ and the spooky ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ it makes an effective album centrepiece. Alia O’Brien also provides the flute and organ solos that permeate most of the material, and there are truly breathtaking instrumental breakdowns here that are accompanied by some precision drumming courtesy of Michael Carrillo, and whilst ‘precision’ isn’t a word normally associated with such a relatively laid-back style, each beat of the snare or crash of the cymbal is exactly where it should be, creating some brilliant percussion effects.
“The Eldritch Dark” delivers on what every occult rock album promises by evoking a mood and an atmosphere that is rarely captured in the studio. As well as the playing, the songwriting here is faultless with each song being memorable and essential to the overall feel and flow of the album; nothing is out of place and the album is totally filler-free. In a just world this album would propel Blood Ceremony into the big leagues and mark the beginning of a creative period that will see them reap the rewards that their hard work has earned them – let’s hope this is the case as “The Eldritch Dark” is a staggering work of art.