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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Blood Ceremony: The Eldritch Dark

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.

7 comments:

  1. If Satan lies with the metal genre, he lies with Alice in Chains, not Blood Ceremony.

    I mean, why would Satan want songs written about himself and his wicked ways if he wanted to spread evil? He would take a more subtle approach by sapping the listeners' morale through bleak parables of nihilism. In this case, songs detailing the psychological horror of drug addiction sung by Staley's understated deathly moan. You see, Satan's philosophy would be "belief in me is optional; evil will still prevail". And there's no better way to complement those parables than with some of the best blood-sucking tones and catchiest songwriting known to metal, by courtesy of Cantrell. This means the horror of Alice in Chains stays hooked in your brain for hours.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the sound Blood Ceremony have going here because, as George pointed out in a previous review, they sound like the best supergroup that never happened. I can even forgive their laughable faux-Satanic lyrics. Yes, they do make the common mistake of writing lyrics that try to sound scary but instead come across as goofy because of copious fantasy cliches, whereas their idols Black Sabbath preferred to write more about war and drugs through a hippie perspective. Blood Ceremony are supposed to be a fun band, though. We wouldn't want to hear chilling tales of drug addiction set to this fun sound, so the cheesy fantasy lyrics are adequate.

    What I find really inadequate, though, is that they haven't the chops or songwriting skills to match their fantastic sound. This is why I could never think of Blood Ceremony as being anything other than "cute" because they're essentially a novelty act that wears out very thin from relying too much on the gimmick. And this makes Blood Ceremony an inadequate band much more than their lyrics ever will.

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  2. If Weird Sisters is representative then Alia's vocals have greatly improved. Her highly enjoyable sneer is very responsible for this improvement.
    Time for a live album, I say. That was tradition back then too - three studio albums and record your ass-kicking capability.

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  3. Satan has nothing to do with Alice in Chains!

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    1. You took my lengthy comment the wrong way. I was talking about the sort of effect Satan would want to achieve if he worked in the metal genre, and my point was Satan wouldn't need a song written about himself to get the job done. Alice in Chains is, to me, more "Satanic" than a band that explicitly mentions Satan everywhere like Blood Ceremony because Blood Ceremony has genuine horror factor.

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  4. *no genuine horror factor, damn typos.

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  5. I think Gary Puckett and the Union Gap was more Satanic than any of em, if your criterion is despair of life and hopelessness. Cuckoldry (Woman), Underage lust (Young Girl), Unrequited love (Lady Willpower), Broken Families (You Better Sit Down Kids)? Sounds like the Hounds of Hell to me!

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    1. And don't even get started on Terry Jacks...

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