Florence and the Machine
Ceremonials


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason EMERITUS
May 1st, 2012 | 48 replies | 6,777 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It’s a melody, it’s a final cry, it’s a symphony.

Florence Welch’s sophomore album is a rarity. Many records possess the quality of being dark, but all too often do they fail to transcend the musical or lyrical approach that drove them to such claustrophobic, suffocating corners to begin with. Darkness isn’t synonymous with “devoid of any and all hope”, yet so many artists confine themselves to that rigid definition. Florence and the Machine, on the other hand, is a band whose dark traits are matched equally by their ability to triumph over their demons, giving listeners a reason to dance where other may cower in defeat. The way that their second album, Ceremonials, pulls you down to unimaginable depths but still manages to resuscitate you every time is what makes it relatable and real. After all, happiness is often preceded by remarkable trials, or as the quote from the album’s lead single ‘Shake It Out’ perfectly articulates, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Ceremonials’ duality is what gives it such a satisfyingly mysterious element - it is conspicuously morose without being hopeless, but it never completely brings you into the light either. In the end, it proves to be just as lost as we are - making it a useless compass through life but invaluable as a confidant.

If a word existed with the sole purpose of describing Ceremonials, it would be cathartic. Florence and the Machine have compiled twelve epic tracks here, and each one possesses the capability to locate, connect with, and elevate your current state of mind. The driving force behind the album’s ability to transcend its mere existence as notes on a page lies within its passion; and its passion within the powerful voice of Florence Welch. Without her presence, you might as well bid adieu to the towering choruses, harrowing lyrical passages, and – in short – all of the music’s emotive qualities. Therefore, Florence’s performance on lead vocals is something worthy of celebration in itself. She makes this band what it is, and from ‘Only If For A Night’ to ‘Leave My Body’, she does Ceremonials the same service. Her range transforms an instrumentally ordinary track like ‘Breaking Down’ into something completely spellbinding, while giving slow-burners such as ‘Seven Devils’ a sinister touch. Of course, we all know she is capable of completely taking over a song, as she does in ‘Shake It Out’ and the chill-inducing, tribal closer ‘Leave My Body.’ If there’s one thing you can count on, it is that Florence’s voice will in some way reach you, and in that way Ceremonials is one of the most affecting albums to be released in the past few years.

In a strictly instrumental sense, “The Machine” component to Florence’s bewitching vocals holds up just as well as it did on Lungs. There may not be a ‘Dog Days Are Over’ to make the album’s existence felt on radio stations everywhere, but make no mistake – Ceremonials is an equally effective, if less immediate, follow-up to the band’s renowned debut. The drums still echo like thunderstorms rolling across a desolate plain, while each pluck of the guitar rings with elegance beyond what is earthly. The only issue is that the instruments in general have all been scaled back, forcing Florence and the Machine to rely primarily on drums to fill the same space that was once occupied by multiple instruments. However, with the talent that they have on vocals, there is hardly a lack of sound to fill out the record. The stripped-down approach actually works more in their favor, concocting a ritualistic, tribe-like atmosphere that compliments Welch’s skill set far better than any approach taken on Lungs. It comes up short by comparison in terms of catchy, immediately accessible material, but it also provides us with more depth. Considering the tone that Ceremonials takes from the start, that is a far more valuable asset than any sing-along chorus.

Between the unwavering vocal presence of Florence Welch and the bare-bones musical approach taken by her Machine, Ceremonials is an album that relies on the emotional reaction of the listener in order for it to achieve its desired impact. In that sense, the record might best be heard at a crossroads – when it seems like your past is bogging you down, preventing the illumination of your future. It covers all possible ups and downs, nudging you towards the light at the end of the tunnel just when you deem it futile to keep looking. Sometimes, this comes with the simplest offering of perspective…“It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off”…In that case, I suggest we get our dance on.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Emeritus
May 1st 2012



14513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nearing 200 reviews, so my next 11 will contain a lot of albums near-and-dear to me.

theacademy
May 1st 2012



27703 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

fail

Zettel
May 1st 2012



581 Comments


Terrific review, Mr. SowingSeason.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2012



10018 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

yes yes y'all

Digging: Woods - With Light And With Love

Recspecs
May 1st 2012



9811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mmmm good review, one of my favorites from last year.

Ire
May 1st 2012



41474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it has growing power

YetAnotherBrick
May 1st 2012



4339 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wahoo this album rules, just saw these guys live a few days ago too, was awesome

Digging: Battles - Mirrored

SowingSeason
Emeritus
May 1st 2012



14513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This album simply got better every month after I bought it

ILJ
May 2nd 2012



6550 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of the best from last year, easily. I only wish I hadn't played it quite so much when it dropped, because its appeal wore off a bit.

Digging: The Hotelier - Home, Like NoPlace Is There

feanaro
May 2nd 2012



796 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really stuck between a 4 and a 4.5 for this. Awesome regardless.

Anthracks
May 2nd 2012



3639 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this album is not dark lol

Digging: Tobacco - Ultima II Massage

AtavanHalen
May 2nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hmm

well

Captain North
May 2nd 2012



6743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck off David. Just fuck the right off.

AtavanHalen
May 2nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

oh hey it's captain no

what the fuck do you want

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2012



23671 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the first two songs on this kick the shit out of the rest of the album in my opinion

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Tyrael
May 2nd 2012



20442 Comments


no no no no

AtavanHalen
May 2nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

but what the water gave me is the third song

does not compute

AtavanHalen
May 2nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

by who

who did this horrible over rating

let's kill their family

SowingSeason
Emeritus
May 2nd 2012



14513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Does reviewing the new b.o.b featuring Taylor Swift count?

AtavanHalen
May 2nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i love sowing



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