BLOOD CEREMONY: LORD OF MISRULE (2016)
1) The Devil's Widow; 2) Loreley; 3) The Rogue's Lot; 4) Lord Of Misrule; 5) Half Moon Street; 6) The Weird Of Finistere; 7) Flower Phantoms; 8) Old Fires; 9) Things Present, Things Past.
Ah, how delightful unabashed copycatting can be. Say what you will, but when the first track on your new album opens with a suspenseful guitar riff taken almost note-for-note from Pink Floyd's ʽLucifer Samʼ (because Lucifer!!), and then, eight (or nine) bars into the song, changes into a Black Sabbath-style rocker with Iommi-tone, on top of which the frontlady piles up a Jethro Tull-style lead flute melody with Anderson-fuss, it's hard to get rid of an ironic chuckle: «Man, these guys just might be the most original artists of 2016 — they're, like, the only ones to completely and absolutely waive the right to any originality! Slavish imitation rules the day!»
Add to this the fact that, as of now, Blood Ceremony have already been going on for ten years: that's right, time goes pretty fast now, right? Four albums in ten years, all of which essentially sound the same and that «same» is 100% derivative of a bunch of heavy rock / prog rock artists who now probably come to relax and revisit their youth at Blood Ceremony concerts. (At least Anderson and Iommi, I believe, should get a lifelong supply of free tickets to BC shows). I think their rhythm section has changed again for this album (too lazy to check out properly), but the main people stay the same (Alia on keyboards, flutes, and apprentice-demonic vocals; Sean on Iommi-guitar, although, unlike Iommi, he never downtunes it properly enough), and overall, the band just wants to tell you that dark magic is a full-time occupation, with its own routine, schedules, and stability rates. It doesn't pay too much, but hey, it's a job like any other.
And it would still be fun, if only, after the first few tracks, one didn't get the feeling that they are treating it like routine. Again, everything follows the same formula — heavy guitar riffage, derivative of Sabbath and their ilk, but never as memorable; witchy woman vocals from Alia, strong and spiteful, but never truly scary or disturbing; and flute or keyboard solos that always sound tasteful, but never too different from each other. Sometimes the music veers far into the field of Celtic balladry (ʽHalf Moon Streetʼ begins like a metallized version of Fairport Convention's ʽMatty Grovesʼ; ʽThe Weird Of Finistereʼ is a slow, mournful waltz with, for once, a more pastoral sound to the flute), and ʽFlower Phantomsʼ is an unexpectedly short and upbeat psychedelic-melancholic pop song in the vein of British nugget-bands circa 1968-1969, but even these exceptions have the same arrangement style and the same overall mood.
Generally, I still think that the heaviest rocking songs here have 90% of the fun — the already mentioned ʽDevil's Widowʼ, with its tribute to ʽLucifer Samʼ, takes the cake (fast tempo rules, and there's something delightfully corny in the way Alia screams "THE DEVIL'S WIDOW! THE DEVIL'S WIDOW!", as if she just saw her walking down the street or something), but the slow, ponderous ʽRogue's Lotʼ, where the lady gets to ask us the question "how do the living raise the dead?" in such a sinister tone you'd think she was going to demonstrate it here and now, is also cool (at least, until it picks up speed and becomes a more forgettable piece of Crowley boogie); and I am also partial to the «dance-metal» pattern of ʽOld Firesʼ and its overdubbed guitars with «woman tones» melodically duelling in the instrumental section. The title track (referring to the legendary title of the presider over the medieval Feast Of Fools) is probably supposed to be the album's centerpiece, what with its epic, power chord-based opening and all, but does not really come across as a standout — however, it does have a well-thought out main riff as well.
All said, Lord Of Misrule does find me a little tired of giving out thumbs up as if, you know, it were automatically guaranteed that Blood Ceremony's schtick, as long as it is properly executed, is always a good thing to have in unlimited quantities. Namely, Lord Of Misrule has fewer moments of true excitement than The Eldritch Dark — actually, come to think of it, none at all in comparison — and if it takes them three years to come up with a weaker application of the same formula, why should I be recommending this? If you're new to the witchy world of Alia O'Brien, check out their early stuff; if you already know what they are all about, your time and spiritual energy should probably rather be spent on something else — unless, of course, you need fresh music like this to create the proper vibe for casting incantations over your personal stock of mandrake roots, toadstool powders, and black cat bones.