Ceremony were a technical death metal band hailing from Florida in the early 90’s. Comprised of Steve tucker (b/v), Greg Reed (g), Pat O’Brien (g) and Shannon Purdue (d), the band was to be the spawning ground of two of the most important names in American death metal: Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. «The Days Beyond The Death», a 1992 four-track EP/demo-tape, constitutes the only existing proof of the band’s studio sessions.
According to Tucker’s liner notes, the purpose of this band was to achieve a new level of technicality and musicianship, while at the same time retaining their extreme-metal roots. Upon listening to this, their sole release, one can ascertain that they certainly achieved their goals.
What we have on this album is pounding, heavy-as-hell death metal that still manages to retain a certain catchy element. This is mostly due to the band’s excellent songwriting skills. Songs like «Parade The Insane» or «Crucifixion», while heavily influenced by such bands as Death and Obituary, are nonetheless memorable in their own right. Plus, the classic-metal influences (particularly visible in the solos) give this record an interesting new dimension. (Unfortunately, we don’t know who does the solos, but it’s presumably Pat O’Brien). Steve Tucker’s vocals, on the other hand, are fittingly guttural, but never generic and on «Crucifixion» he surprises us with some cleaner melodies. But despite the two big names present on this record, the real star here is drummer Shannon Purdue. Upon listening to this album, all I can say is a new star has been found in the death metal scenario. Blastbeating drummers are found by the dozen on the extreme metal scene, but believe it or not, Purdue very seldom uses blastbeats on any of these three songs. He prefers to go for slow, yet mercilessly heavy rhythms, and at times speeds up the tempo, while keeping within the confines of thrash. This makes for original drumming, which further contributes to the satisfactory song structures.
Of course, this album isn’t without its flaws. The biggest one is probably the aptly-titled «Instrumental». Placed as the second track, it should clearly have been an intro, and it kills off much of the album’s momentum. Furthermore, «Sculpted Humanity», the fourth track, while still above-average, is much less interesting than the other two.
Ceremony, as a band, are well and truly over. In the short text on the cover, Steve Tucker explains the inner tensions within the band eventually led to its irreversible demise. However, the legacy they did leave is a very good one, and succeeds in making us mourn for the band. But perhaps if Ceremony hadn’t ended, there would have been no CC or MA…so we can’t help but have mixed feelings about the band’s rupture. On the one hand, we gained two great bands ; on the other, we lost one hell of a good one.
1 – Parade The Insane – The album kicks straight into 5th gear with a track that displays all of the band’s trademarks: shifting tempos, relentlessly heavy guitars and roaring vocals from Tucker. This is a track that is as heavy as it is catchy, and easily ranks among the best death-metal tracks ever. Plus, it features a great, virtuoso guitar solo that helps make it even more interesting, Simply awesome. (5/5)
2 – Instrumental – What can I say? The name gives it all away. A short instrumental the main purpose of which seems to be to extend the album’s duration. It’s not bad as far as instrumentals go, but it’s still just a time-consuming ploy. And, uh, guys…perhaps it should have been the FIRST track?! (2,5/5)
3 – Crucifixion – Segueing straight from «Instrumental», this track initially surprises us with some acoustic riffing and cleaner vocals from Tucker (while he’s not actually singing, he is at least sing-talking in a normal voice). Throughout the song, this cleaner streak alternates with the band’s more chugging, brutal sound to create a very interesting mix. It’s this mix (along with another great solo) that helps this track rise above mediocrity and be a great track instead. (5/5)
4 – Sculpted Humanity – I don’t know what went on, but the fact is this track is much more generic than the other two, and therefore much less interesting. Despite some excellent drumming from Purdue, the songs suffers from the lack of a solo, which might have helped it escape mediocrity. As it is, this is another above-average death metal song, it’s just not as awesome as its counterparts. (3,5/5)