Review Summary: Catching the Hardcore community off-guard with a surprise left hook...
Ceremony have fought their way into the foreground of the hardcore community over the past few years with their brash, fed up, aggressive style of 'F-You', in the key of hardcore. It comes as no surprise when faced with this album that you really see Ceremony attempting to retro-fit the genre: Respect the past, and use it for the future.
I would dare say that this album sounds as though it was originally produced and recorded in the mid-80's, out on the west coast during the emergence of hardcore punk itself, and just now has been uncovered and unleashed upon the world. Much like some legendary, lost, B-side tape, never distributed by some band that never even played a show.
How should you feel about this? Well, it depends on what you're looking for. If you want grass-roots, old-school era hardcore punk to skate down the street to, then you have a true winner here. If you are looking for 'Violence,Violence' again, I think you will be disappointed.
Upon first listen, Rohnert Park confounds the faithful listener. It's not as noisy, it's not as brazenly fast, and it sure doesn't sound as angry or urgent, although the lyrics suggest a 'pissed off as ever' mentality. (i.e. Into The Wayside Part I / Sick)
It is so much more groove intensive than what you would expect, and this move might tend to alienate many fans, but I think there will be some understanding placed upon the execution of the album itself that the diehards will come to endear.
Dishing out more of the same just isn't something Ceremony likes to do. This is an effort that seems calculated into an album they want to make. Where they are now as a band is truly displayed in this album, giving respect to past influential bands in its' sound, and holding on to the reigns of the genre, by giving the past sound an updated feel, along with hearing similar elements from the 'Scared People' EP that you can still find strewn about.
There are some key similarities to their previous works that will keep you interested in this album. Ross's bark is as punchy as ever, giving the words spoken a special aura and abrasion that has always kept what he's saying honest. The fretwork stays technical, refined, and as far as the theme of the album is concerned, old school, although it isn't as 'powerviolence-y' in most places. The bass is as audible as ever, giving the old-school vibe prominence. Along with a punch that will give you as much of a reason to remember the bass lines as the guitar parts. The drumming is rudimentary, and is just as true to form as the rest of the instruments willing to convey upon them.They mellow in and out on the slower songs, and stay up to speed on the faster sections to keep it in check. There are some memorable intro areas that you want to go play on your friend's kit for a good kick. All in all, everything just 'fits' together in this album, musically.
Rohnert Park also seems to place an interesting awareness to where the genre has come from, in terms of the recent array of niches popping up in hardcore punk within the last ten years or so, most notably the emphasis on the breakdown, and where we plan to go from now on. And with the hype surrounding Ceremony garnering a widespread audience the chance to listen to what they want to say, the stage that they will be granted is the best attempt to put forth the 'wake up call' that they want to bring along. It almost seems satirical at points, (listen to The Doldrums(Friendly City)) where an almost retrospective venture gives the idea of a song that would meander along right near the beginning of the album, that seems to sound like a closing song.
Love it or hate it, Rohnert Park has thrown a surprise left hook at the Hardcore Punk community, and it will soon be seen whether it knocked everyone out, or missed entirely. You have to really check it out for yourself to see how you feel about it, though. personally, its a hit.
Best Tracks (in my estimation):
-The Doldrums (Friendly City)
-Back in '84