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A great throwback/doom record - 96%

WorldEaterMetal, June 6th, 2011

I've been listening to this album repeatedly since I got it. It's much stronger than their first release (which I really, really dug at the time). Right of the bat, the album weaves the atmosphere of a musky, smoky cave, breeding the ambiance of classic '70s horror. A crunchy and often droning guitar sounds like it was right out of a period Orange/Marshall stack, thick but crunchy and groovy, almost like a Physical Graffiti-style tone. Sean Kennedy isn't about to shred Suicmez under the table, but he's got great vintage chops and a fair helping of bollocks. In the seventies he'd have been a cult hero; a lot of doom bands could benefit from a lead guitarist like him, rare enough but very well placed, pretty but concise and effective, commanding and noticeable but never over-emphasized.

As for the bass tone, it's relatively low in the mix but it's typical seventies. The bass is subtle enough but keeps the rhythm bouncing and its presence is perhaps sensed more than heard. One advantage throwback records have to the actual seventies is that the drums are crisp and well-miked, but the drums here are ballsy and have presence without commanding the mix. And that's as it should be, because the focus should really be on Alia O'Brien and her voice, her fantastic flute, and the welcome organ.

Without her, Blood Ceremony would be a great Black Sabbath-y band, but with her, surpass that initial evaluation considerably. Tony Iommi famously had a brief stint in Jethro Tull, and if you borrowed a great female vocalist and one of Richie Blackmore's various organists, you might have a band approaching the quality of Blood Ceremony right now. I had quite the hard-on for Jex Thoth for a while, and although it's an unfair comparison in many ways, I quite prefer Alia O'Brien's work with Blood Ceremony. It's an unfair comparison because Jex Thoth goes for a far more basic, almost archaic approach, whereas although Blood Ceremony NEVER feels crowded, it certainly has a bit more going on. At the end of the day it's still a four-piece though, and despite the occasional guitar overdub you never lose sight of that.

How does it stack up to the previous record? It's a hard comparison because on paper they should be awfully similar, yet they exude such a different vibe. Living With The Ancients is a more mature, polished-feeling version of Blood Ceremony and I highly recommend it to any fans of doom metal or '70s rock/prog. It's definitely worth your dollar.