BLOOD CEREMONY: THE ELDRITCH DARK (2013)
1) Witchwood; 2) Goodbye Gemini; 3) Lord Summerisle; 4) Ballad Of The Weird Sisters; 5) Eldritch Dark; 6) Drawing Down The Moon; 7) Faunus; 8) The Magician.
Well, I was wondering when they would finally begin to exploit the folk side of their schtick, and here it comes: Blood Ceremony's third album, The Eldritch Dark, has them expanding into the realm of dark acoustic tales (ʽLord Summerisleʼ, a Wicker Man tribute sung as a duet by Alia with bassist Lucas Gadke), ʽMatty Grovesʼ-style murder ballads (ʽBallad Of The Weird Sistersʼ, replete with fiddles and long-winded rhyming sequences), and merry flute jigs (ʽFaunusʼ, an instrumental that brings up the theme of horned deities yet once more).
Predictably, none of this is great — all the melodic structures are completely traditional, and if you are well familiar with the music of at least a few bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span... then again, it should be mentioned that Blood Ceremony have no desire to go completely «authentic»: ʽLord Summerisleʼ, for instance, in addition to the acoustic guitar and flute parts, is eventually joined by a Mellotron backing part. Maybe it's just a cheap trick to procure additional «depth» for this simplistic piece, but somehow I do not quite remember that many folk bands singing medieval ballads with Mellotrons, or prog bands with Mellotrons singing medieval ballads with flutes. Well, I guess there must have been (Amazing Blondel?), but it's hardly the most natural combination in the world. Likewise, ʽWeird Sistersʼ actually combines flutes, fiddles, and heavy rock riffage in a rather fun way.
Still, the best songs on the album are those that go on worshipping the heavy riff as the foundation of everything. ʽWitchwoodʼ has one of these in the verses, and the title track has another, although it borrows much of its chord structure from Sabbath's ʽThe Wizardʼ (oh what an obvious choice to rip off). And then, as if they just didn't have enough, they throw on another epic dedicated to Oliver Haddo: the eight-minute ʽMagicianʼ which closes the album may be their most successfully realised number so far, with a complex intro, catchy verses and choruses, a nice little guitar and flute storm in the solo section, and a solemn organ melody that serves as the base of the slow, doom-laden crescendo in the coda. I wouldn't say there's a lot of «magic» as such in the track, but it's definitely enjoyable all the way through.
The best song on the album, however, is ʽDrawing Down The Moonʼ, which may not have a great riff, but probably has the best Alia part of 'em all — she's developing this witchy sneer that tastes delicious when spiced with a little reverb and accompanied with a slightly distorted organ part, and the song itself has a strong «pull», opening with Gadke's bass and largely «hanging» on that bassline as it leads everybody around it up and down. It is certainly one of the most energetic and exhilarating invitations to the Sabbath ever thought of in popular music.
Which brings me to this particular point about Blood Ceremony: although, technically, their music is often assigned to the «goth horror» category or something like that, in reality there is nothing genuinely «horrific» about it. On the contrary, Alia and the gang are being very casual about their black sorcery — as if they were advertising a scuba diving club or something like that. It's serious (no direct humor or irony anywhere in sight), but it's just, you know, routine business, where "we welcome you to the Sabbath with a knowledge of hellfire" is like "we welcome you to the barbecue party with a knowledge of the gas grill". I guess this is the sort of attitude that made me so completely at peace with them from the very start. I mean, yeah, witches and demons have their chores, too, and their paydays and their checkbooks and their social securities. Stop treating them like they were... you know... supernatural. Be realistic.
So, another thumbs up here — third in a row, which should not give the illusion that I really adore this band or anything. All three of these albums just barely rise above mediocrity, but they do rise above mediocrity, and somehow they have so far been even able to create an impression of gradual «progress». The big question is whether that impression can be made to last for their next albums, provided they do not disband soon enough — out of general despair to convince the world that the real Satan stays with them rather than with Nicki Minaj.