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It's a Black Mass, and I'm ready to go!! - 82%

severzhavnost, April 10th, 2013

This is really eerie stuff! Blood Ceremony should definitely be ranked among the vanguard of today's '70s psychedelic-doom wave. The retro revivalist game can be tricky, as you risk coming across as nothing more than a cover or tribute band. But these Canadians pull it off convincingly. Those of us who were not around for first-hand experience of the originals like Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep should be thankful that it's being brought back with sincerity.

Sean's guitar leads are an absolute time warp. Due to modern equipment, the tone lacks the old-time graininess, but the composition makes up for it. If you were unaware of the band's age, I could tell you this 2011 debut is a 40th anniversary reissue of itself, and you'd believe me. "I'm Coming With You" especially features a menacing three-note riff straight out of classic Sabbath. (Note: don't read that as a claim of plagiarism!) You'll also be reminded of the metal godfathers' eponymous song toward the end of "Rare Lord", where the slow melody suddenly picks up the speed. The guitar work is just very 70s, in that it's meant to guide the tune without obnoxiously dominating it, as per the flashy hedonism of later decades. Even the solos are classically organic to the overall songwriting. For best examples, see the instrumental passages of "Into the Coven" and "Rare Lord". Mr. Kennedy fully uses these chances to show his considerable skill, all while sharing the spotlight with Alia O'Brien's flute. 

This flute will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Jethro Tull, except I'd say Alia works it in free from any of Ian Anderson's arty pretension. It's more like a stand-in for Ozzy's harmonica. The lightness brought by the flute is a really trippy counterpoint to the band's occult themes and slow guitar riffs. The effect is an enhanced, oddly enjoyable out-of-your-mind experience. Alia also plays the chilling organ intro to the first track. Perfect way to lure you into the album! God I miss the organ in heavy music... and no, it was not welcome when Borknagar stuffed it into their prog-ass black metal! That didn't feel retro, it was just forcing ten pounds of dung into a five pound bag. 

Beyond her instrumental pieces, Alia is also the band's singer. And she does a lovely job. Her voice is strong and clear, with a certain airy, dreamlike quality that ideally suits the escapist lyrical themes. She just sounds like she rely enjoys what she sings about. A very genuine performance. You might like her to show a higher range, but I like her soothing stability. It complements the sense of drifting away in your mind.

The rhythm section of Lucas on bass and drummer Michael are notable presences as well. With slow tunes, it can be hard for a drummer to stand out, but he fradually works in more subtle displays of high-level technique as the album progresses. Look for his cymbal work on the closing song, as well as a great drum and bass fill in "Children of the Future". Bass aficionados, Lucas gets other moments to shine too. In general, the longer songs such as "Return to Forever" and "Hymn to Pan" have more complex bass lines. That last one is the album's heaviest song, due in large part to a slow, yet truly monstrous bass rhythm. 

If your Witchcraft albums are looking kinda lonely on the shelf, go pick up this great bit of Canadian retro-doom. Then vodka up your coffee, watch "1408" with the sound muted, and pop Blood Ceremony into the CD tray. Sit back and enjoy!

Jethro Sabbath. - 80%

Andromeda_Unchained, April 4th, 2012

I'm really into this whole occult heavy/doom thing that seems to be all the rage at the moment, particularly the bands that incorporate a lot of 70's sensibilities into their sound. I really enjoy acts such as Jex Thoth, The Devil's Blood, Witch Mountain and Ghost, Canada's Blood Ceremony can sit right between those acts in terms of style and quality. However Blood Ceremony ensure that they can stand out amongst the crowd, and incorporate quite a lot of flutes and organs, which I think gives the band quite a bit of progressive rock to their sound; think along the lines of Camel, Yes and Jethro Tull.

Of course the riffs are straight out of the Sabbath handbook, but by the gods are they played with heart and conviction, which when coupled with a perfectly vintage guitar tone sounds ace. The rhythm section here is well accomplished with some tasty drum fills and sexual bass lines. The album cover is awesome, and the use of reds and oranges really bleeds through the music filling the room with a spectral haze dripping morose desert heat. Alia's vocals are both enticing and playful, and really suit the music well. She proves an exceptional talent with excellent flute and organ skills. The flute might be off putting to some, as there is a wealth of moments across Blood Ceremony when they take the centre stage. Check out "I'm Coming With You" for a good example of how Blood Ceremony utilizes the flute.

Those who enjoy the flute or can look past it are going to find an excellent album for their listening pleasures. Great riffs, songs, performances, and vocals; there really isn't much wrong here. Fans of the bands I've mentioned earlier are no doubt going to love this, especially those who love the 70's psychedelic sound. Recommended.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Eerie, psychedelic power - 85%

autothrall, March 7th, 2011

Speaking as someone who takes any chance he can to revel in nostalgia over his hobby, Blood Ceremony came right out of left field and smacked me right upside the memory banks. Fusing a Sabbath-inspired storm of bluesy, bleak riffing with the folk flutes of Jethro Tull would be one thing, but this Canadian band goes a few steps beyond with Alia O'Brien's classic female rock voice, and a clear inspiration taken from early occult horror cinema. Their self-titled debut Blood Ceremony is both groovy and creepy, and a great fix for an afternoon of inhalations and fond remembrances.

The mix of the album is fully in line with its nature. Though more vibrant than their 70s counterparts, the guitars dial back the distortion to a simpler time, infused with both melody and menace. The flutes and sparse organs shine through perfectly, the album feels like a live performance in your Johnny Bravo decorated living space. The drums are tin and crashing, the bass is laid back. When the album crushes, it does so with a swagger: "Return to Forever" is vintage Sabbath, along with the take-no-prisoners grooves of "I'm Coming With You". When the album calms, it is every bit as convincing: instrumental "A Wind of Wizardry" glistens with folk acoustics and flutes that hearken back to decades, even centuries past. "Hop Toad" jams, and "Hymn to Pan" haunts with a vengeance, developing into a terrifying trip with its irresponsible slather of organs and evil.

'Now Astaroth's ship sets sail across the sky
Through Saturn's yawning hail, and into the eye
Black magic rites profane
Wizards are oft' to blame'

Many bands attempt to evoke the 60s and 70s, but only a few modern efforts have truly brought me back into the folded arms of those antiquated times. Alongside Sweden's Witchcraft, Blood Ceremony are one of the most successful. O'Brien's vocals are not always 100% interesting, they could use some more peaks and valleys rather than the often dull plodding within a safe range. A few of the riffs may be weaker than others, but in the end, the entire album shines as a single listening experience.

Highlights: Return to Forever, Hop Toad, Hymn to Pan

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com