Review Summary: The old ways remain.
Everything old is new again. While it's increasingly more difficult to come up with anything revolutionary or novel in rock music these days, many young musicians happen to be fascinated by vintage sounds, blazing the new trend whose chief principle implies that the more old-school your style gets, the better. Toronto's Blood Ceremony are among the most notable purveyors of this philosophy. Their music sounds like it was recorded at least 40 years ago, harking back to the early days of progressive rock. It's a curious mesh-up of traditional hard rock and Canterbury folk that feels complete with an unmistakably pagan aesthetic showcased by mysterious mood and witchcraft-inspired lyrics. These attributes clearly place the quartet in the realm of such acclaimed current acts as Christian Mistress, Purson and Ghost.
The third full-length record of the outfit The Eldritch Dark
is a remarkably solid collection of occult-rock tunes. The songcraft is often on par with the old masters, and the musicianship the band displays proves always compelling. Sean Kennedy's thick guitar tone finely complements Lucas Gadke's sinuous bass lines and Michael Carrillo's tight drumming. However, it's multi-talented Alia O'Brien who's the quartet's catalyst. She may not possess the most impressive voice in the business, yet her husky croons sound refreshingly melodic. Moreover, the flute and organ parts she provides are absolutely essential ingredients of the band's sound, transforming your typical vintage rock into a much more dynamic and nuanced affair. The flute's trembling instantly recalls Jethro Tull in its blissful melodicism, while the organ chords colour the music with an ominous vibe that makes it feel like the soundtrack to a classic horror film. The lyrics, which tend to derive from gothic and Victorian tales, only enhance the foreboding atmosphere.
Not only is The Eldritch Dark
reminiscent of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Coven sound-wise, but also retains the format of the old vinyl records. Containing eight tracks and clocking in a little more than 40 minutes, the presentation is admirably focused and almost filler-free. It also captures Blood Ceremony working as a collective more than ever before, which results in the outfit's most eclectic effort to date. The opener “Witchwood” might be the most representative track on the disc, striking an ideal balance between mysticism, infectiousness and complexity. Kicking off with the pensive flute solo, “Goodbye Gemini” evolves into a rollicking tune that enchants with its memorable chorus. “Ballad of the Weird Sisters” makes good use of folky fiddle which contrasts with lively flute passages, whereas “Lord Summerisle” is way more subtle, revolving around Kennedy's tender acoustic guitar and Gadke's sorrowful vocals to deeply contemplative effect.
In terms of songwriting prowess and production, The Eldritch Dark
is undoubtedly the best executed release from Blood Ceremony thus far. Adroitly oscillating between creepy and seductive, the album makes for a ravishing piece of occult-rock revival that draws from its retro influences with great artistry and aplomb.