It is quite remarkable how a band that borrows so many things from great predecessors can sound so unique, for unique is a word that is definitely appropriate when describing the Canadian Heavy/Doom Metal band BLOOD CEREMONY. The documentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” features an interview with Rob Zombie, in which he claims that “Every cool riff has been written by Black Sabbath. Whether it’s being played faster or slower or backwards or whatever – Black Sabbath did it first.” BLOOD CEREMONY seem to have embraced that statement totally and decided that there is no point in trying to avoid sounding like BLACK SABBATH. The foundation of the music on this record is riffing taken from the SABBATH school-book. The guitar tone is the same, the production is old-school and the bluesy playfulness is present, as well.
If this was all there was, BLOOD CEREMONY would only be a well-made copy of the Masters of Metal. At this point, another very strong enters the scene. Flute and organ play important parts on this record, in the weaving of melodies. Anyone who has heard JETHRO TULL immediately recognises the flute sound. Here, and in the organ parts, the playfulness of the record is even more obvious. I have listened to a lot of Folk Metal and sometimes that makes you forget how many different ways you can play a flute. Just as in JETHRO TULL, the folksy sound is very experimental and knows no boundaries. The drumming is also very varied, following the shifting character of the music. I like both the drums and the bass-work a lot, as they give the album some real crunch, which contrasts nicely with the progressive melodies. Last but not least, there are of course vocals on the album. The vocalist Alia O’Brien plays a very important role as she plays both organ and flute besides her singing. Her vocals seem inspired by the drawling style used in 70’s Psychedelic Rock as well as early Metal (most famously by Ozzy Osbourne of course). Her female voice still adds a new twist to the style, which is fun to hear. Most female vocalists in Metal get to do the same soprano-style and this definitely breaks that pattern.
After this description, you should have a pretty good idea of how this album sounds. JETHRO TULL and BLACK SABBATH are spiced with a Psychedelic vibe, an old-school production and a playful sound. The mood on this album is occult and shrewdly merry at the same time. That many of the lyrics concern witchcraft and occultism feels very logical. A few nods to more modern Doom Metal can also be heard here and there, but generally old-school rules supreme here.
My favourite song on here is the diverse “The Rare Lord”, followed by the closer “Hymn To Pan” and the nice interlude “A Wine Of Wizardry”. Otherwise, the second half of the album generally feels a little bit stronger than the first, but consistency and even quality must be named as a trademark of “Blood Ceremony”. Nostalgic Metalheads are advised to check this out, as well as those attracted by the concept of an extra-experimental BLACK SABBATH with flutes and female vocals. (Longing for more Metal in JETHRO TULL’s sound could also be a possible way in.) Finally, I would like to add that it took some time for me to understand and appreciate this record. This is a record that neither reveals its full potential at the first listen, nor works particularly well when not paid full attention to, as the listener may then walk astray within its musical mazes.
(Online May 17, 2012)