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Canadians Blood Ceremony committed their debut ritual in 2008 and I just could not get enough of its myriad charms, led by the vocal promise of Alia O'Brien and the an atmosphere that sounded as if it had been wrought from many an acid binge, Sabbath or Hammer Horror film session. Three years later, they have returned through Rise Above Records with their sophomore, Living With the Ancients, and have thankfully not abandoned their occult starved visage, grooving guitars and organs. There is not so much of a commitment on this album to sounding 'old', because the guitar tones seem to be thicker as they snake their way across the lighter mixed vocals, but otherwise it channels the same, smoky, serpentine nostalgia.
"The Great God Pan" is a decent opener, primarily in how the bold, open chords covet and cloak O'Brien's drifting vocals, but "Coven Tree" immediately cranks up the morbidity with its dire flute melodies, jarring start/stop riffs and Alia's more desperate, soul-filled performance. The folk instrumental "The Hermit" spins some Tull into the fray, and "My Demon Brother" is a total crushing Black Widow/Sabbath style piece with desperately wants a lift in time back to the early 70s, but you'll also notice that the guitars here also disperse heavier distortion that wouldn't be out of place on a Witchcraft or Cathedral record. But the true winners on this album are found deeper into its content, through the epic, retrofitted "Morning of the Magicians" and the enormous closer "Daughter of the Sun", which is over 10 minutes long of frilly fuzz and desert-injected doom. Special mention also for the "Night of Augury" and its swerving interplay of guitar and organ, and layered vocal arrangement.
Living With the Ancients just bleeds atmosphere, so if you're of the sinister stoner subtype who dwells within dreams of archaic horror flicks or bad memories, then you probably want to check this out, though I'd be more apt to recommend the debut, which had a less muddy crushing tone to it but a lot creepier songwriting. That said, Blood Ceremony is still one of the more promising bands to come along on Rise Above in years, and I've been enjoying their sound more than the other female fronted doom acts like Serpentcult and Jex Thoth. Just about every night is Hallows Eve when you're curled up with a joint, a black light and an album like one, so if that warmth and menace appeals to your baser instincts, then dig it up.