Tag Archives: Blood Ceremony

Album Reviews – Autumn 2013 Roundup

A few recent (and not so recent) albums I’ve not had the chance to review in full, but are all far too good to be overlooked.

Blood Ceremony – The Eldrich Dark

The spooky Canadians’ third album has lightly less stoner metal riffing and more psychedelia, with less emphasis on fuzz-toned guitar and more on sinister Hammond organ. There’s no change in their focus on 70s horror film motifs, with song titles like “Lord Summerisle” and lyrics about crimson altars. With plenty of Alia O’Brien’s flute the end result is a cross between Jethro Tull on acid and Uriah Heep from Hell.

Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

This record is allegedly too “mainstream” for me, but it’s got a very similar vibe to albums like Luna Rossa’s “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies” and Odin Dragonfly’s “Offerings“. There’s no trace of the electro-glam of their earlier records here, the stripped down arrangements made up largely of acoustic guitar and strings emphasise the beguiling melodies of the songs and beauty of Alison Goldfrapp’s voice.

The Graveltones – Don’t Wait Down

This duo have been kicking up a storm on the live circuit, and their début album manages to capture the power and intensity of the band’s live performances. The combination of raw and dirty blues riffs and powerhouse drums as a lead instrument in the vein of John Bonham or Keith Moon make a glorious rock’n'roll noise. This a record that needs to be played loud for maximum effect.

Magenta – The Twenty-Seven Club

With song titles like “The Lizard King”, “Ladyland Blues” and “Stoned” the subject matter of Magenta’s sixth studio album ought to be obvious here. As with any Magenta record, strong echoes of Yes are never far away, with some very Steve Howe like phrases from guitarist Chris Fry. Similarly, Christina Booth’s sings in similar register to Jon Anderson, although her performances have a lot more emotional depth. One standout song is the beautiful ballad “Pearl”, its less-is-more simplicity contrasting with the more complex epics on the album, with a superbly emotive vocal. As a whole, the album takes a position midway between the dark intensity of “Metamorphosis” and the commercial Magenta-lite of “Chameleon”. As a distillation of a lot of what’s good about Magenta’s music this makes a very good starting point for new listeners.

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Top Ten Songs of 2011

We’ve had my ten top albums of the year, here’s my top ten songs. Not being a fan of top-40 style singles, almost all of these are album tracks – in fact there’s only one single on the entire list.

As is usual for this sort of thing, it’s a completely personal and subjective list. But I’d much rather listen to any of these than any X-factor bollocks, and so should you. So there!

10: Yes – Fly From Here
The title track of Yes’ most recent album saw the “Drama” team of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn return with a much-expanded version of what started life as an unrecorded Buggles song. I suppose calling a five-part prog-rock epic taking up half an album a “song” is cheating, but I’m setting the rules here, and this is certainly the best thing Yes have recorded for years.

9: Journey – Edge of the Moment
One of the standout songs from “Eclipse”, this classy hard rocker is a great example of the other side of Journey’s music from the radio-friendly ballads.

8: Blood Ceremony – Daughter of the Sun
The ten-minute epic that closes track of their second album “Living With the Ancients” is a great example of why I’ve described them as sounding like Black Sabbath fronted by Angela Gordon, with it’s combination of bewitching flute and doom-laden guitar.

7: Mostly Autumn – Questioning Eyes
It’s not a completely new song (It originally appeared on Breathing Space’s 2008 album “Below the Radar”), but the powerful live version on “Still Beautiful” rises to even greater heights. It shows the extent to which Olivia Sparnenn has grown as a vocalist in the past three years.

6: Mastodon – The Sparrow
The multi-layered ballad with it’s rich harmonies is my clear favourite from “The Hunter”. Probably because it’s the most prog thing on the album.

5: Liam Davison – Heading Home
Liam’s long-awaited solo album “A Treasure of Well-Set Jewels” was one of the surprises of 2011, a well-crafted album with a very capable supporting cast. This song is a standout with it’s wonderful interplay between Liam’s soaring lead guitar, Iain Jennings’ swirling Hammond organ and Paul Teasdale’s propulsive bass riff.

4: Panic Room – O Holy Night
A welcome and unexpected end-of-year surprise was this spine-tingling version of the traditional carol released as a free Christmas download from their website.

3: Heather Findlay – Seven
Heather’s solo EP “The Phoenix Suite” took quite a few listens to fully appreciate, and once the record finally clicked, this atmospheric and brooding number became the firm favourite.

2: Opeth – Folklore
The dramatic closing section on this song with the galloping bass riff has to be one of the most exciting pieces of music I’ve heard all year.

1: Steven Wilson – Raider II
Another lengthy prog epic is my “song” of the year. With its swirling Mellotron and spiralling sax and flute it sounds like a cross between 70s King Crimson and Canterbury-scene jazz-rock dragged into the 21st century, and the heaviest sections are the bits without guitars. Amazing piece of music.

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The Five Songs Meme – Mid-summer edition.

Time, I think for the Five Songs meme to be cast into the Blogofacetwitsphere again, for what it’s worth. And the five songs from me are:

Heather Findlay – Red Dust
Panic Room – Song for Tomorrow
Stolen Earth – Tuscany Sun
Morpheus Rising – Those Who Watch
Blood Ceremony – Daughter of the Sun

So, four songs with a Mostly Autumn connection, either containing ex-members, or sharing members with the current lineup. And the last one, which has no MA connection that I’m aware of, does have flute all over it.

Red Dust is the opening number from Heather Findlay’s “The Phoenix Suite”, a record I find I’m liking a lot more now I’ve had the chance to hear the songs performed live. This hard rocker came over very powerfully, even in stripped-down acoustic form.

Song for Tomorrow is yet to be released, but has got stuck in my head simply from hearing it performed live at the recent Panic Room gigs, which is surely a sign of a memorable song. It’s a big epic guitar-driven song with a great riff and a strong vocal melody. A classic in the making, I think.

Tuscany Sun is the first new song we’ve heard from Stolen Earth since the formation of the band earlier this year. As with the Panic Room song above, if there’s more where that came from, then we’ve got some good music to look forward too in the coming year.

Those Who Watch comes from the five song EP “The Original 2008 Demos” which I picked up when I saw Morpheus Rising supporting The Reasoning last year, but never really gave a serious listen until now. There’s some great songwriting here despite decidedly rough-and-ready production, and this brooding number is my favourite from the EP.

Daughter of the Sun is the ten-minute closing number from Blood Ceremony’s second album “Living with the Ancients”. With it’s doom-laden guitar riff, bewitching flute and sinister swirling organ, it sums up everything I like about this band.

OK, so you all (both of you) know the drill by now. List five songs you’re grooving on right now and post them on your Blog/Livejournal/Facebook wall or wherever.

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Blood Ceremony – Living with the Ancients

Canadian four-piece Blood Ceremony have been making a bit of a stir recently, as much for the theatrical nature of their shows as for their records. But as this disk shows, the actual music more than stands up on it’s own.

It’s all quite heady stuff. It’s got doom-laden guitar riffs, bewitching female vocals, folk-inflenced flute, and swirling Hammond organ. The result is a sound like a cross between Black Sabbath fronted by Angela Gordon, and a dark twisted version of Uriah Heep.

There’s a very strong 1971 feel of the whole thing, albeit with slightly cleaner production. Guitarist Sean Kennedy is clearly a disciple of Tony Iommi, and one or two of his solos could have come straight off “Black Sabbath Vol 4″. The rhythm section also has the same slightly jazzy groove of early Sabbath. But vocalist, flautist and organist Alia O’Brien turns them into far, far more than a Black Sabbath tribute act. If her haunting lead vocals aren’t enough, her flute and especially her sinister-sounding organ end up defining the band’s sound. Her keyboard work reminds me a lot of Ken Hensley.

With Song titles like “The Great God Pan” (not a cover of The Waterboys’ song) “The Coven Tree”, “The Witches Dance” and “Daughter of the Sun” as a paean to the 1970s horror movies from which they take their name,  the end result comes over as the soundtrack for the best film that the Hammer House of Horror never made.

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