BLOOD CEREMONY: LIVING WITH THE ANCIENTS (2011)
1) The Great God Pan; 2) Coven Tree; 3) The Hermit; 4) My Demon Brother; 5) Morning Of The Magicians; 6) Oliver Haddo; 7) Night Of Augury; 8) The Witch's Dance; 9) Daughter Of The Sun.
Odd enough, they're getting better at this. On Blood Ceremony's second album, the riffs get darker, tighter, and a bit less obviously derivative; the solos get ever so slightly more fluent and complex, implying that they may have spent at least a part of these three years actually sharpening their skills rather than camping at the crossroads at midnight; and a couple of the songs even manage to build up an impressive atmosphere. Well — I guess if you dabble in the black arts long enough, there's an actual chance that people will gradually shift their reaction from ironic snickering to nervous fidgeting.
One such song is ʽMy Demon Brotherʼ, where, after the obligatory tritone-filled introduction, they offer us a cool key change between verse and chorus — it's the kind of trick that worked really well on Sabbath albums circa 1972-73, and it works fine here, provided you do not actually follow the lyrics too closely (Geezer Butler would have probably blushed at these inane lines, but then Geezer never actually wrote Satanist lyrics — these guys do, and I hope Satan eventually gives Alia a good spanking for tarnishing his reputation with this nonsense). It really only works for a second before the spell is over, but that is already an improvement — from simple mastery of form, they try to grapple some mastery of the spirit, and deserve commendment.
I am a bit offended, though, at their continuous involvement of poor Greek deities into this black magic thing. Come on guys, just because the unfortunate Pan is pictured with horns on his head does not mean that you can freely call him «the horned one» — what next, Moses? He has nothing to do with witches or black magic, and contrary to rumors, his altar does not «burn with pagan fear», and his image should be accompanied with flutes but not Sabbath-style riffs. We admit, yes, that there are some nice sounding Sabbath-style riffs on ʽThe Great God Panʼ (actually, though, the most recognizable riff is a variation on Alice Cooper's ʽIt's Hot Tonightʼ), and that Sean Kennedy's ecstatic solo is better than any guitar solo passage on the debut album (Satan is a good teacher, want it or not), but leave Pan alone, dammit already.
On the other hand, their musical juxtaposition of Tullian flute with Sabbath-y riffs may somewhat justify this mixture — presenting everything as if from the misguided view of an uninformed Christian, for whom «paganism» and «Satanism» are the same thing and who views pagan deities as demons by definition. ʽCoven Treeʼ, where the flute accompanies the dark riffs almost incessantly, is another good example of this approach — "Saturnalia" = "infernal light" and "roots of witchery", and so on.
The best song on the album is arguably ʽOliver Haddoʼ, indicating that 20th century black arts intrigue these guys at least as much as ancient Greek mythology, although it is not until the sixth minute that the track really catches fire as Alia switches to pseudo-church organ and Sean Kennedy starts tossing out a series of really passionate riffs, supported by exceptionally heavy drumming. That is yet another moment where, for a brief while, I am inclined to take Blood Ceremony seriously: not seriously enough to become a Crowley adept — not even Led Zeppelin could make me do that, and Lord knows they tried real hard — but seriously enough to think that they may ultimately do a good job in reviving old-school doom metal.
Other than that, though, there is little to add: in terms of basic ingredients, the formula remains the same, and you can spot no more formal musical progress here than you can spot any serious deviation from the song title formula. The added emotional nuances suffice to earn them another optimistic thumbs up, but I honestly know not what else to write, so let us stop right here.