Blood Ceremony

Lord Of Misrule

Written by: AP on 24/01/2017 17:44:04

2016 was not the kindest year to fans of the ‘70s rock revival movement, as one of its brightest stars fired a dud, and another was prematurely laid to rest. But amidst all the drear, one less recognised prospect did raise a ruckus — at least if you were listening closely. Blood Ceremony, a self-proclaimed ‘witch rock’ act out of Toronto, ON, issued their fourth studio album, “Lord of Misrule”, and wooed all it touched with a quite extraordinary take on the heritage rock genre. The main point of distinction is the ambidextrous frontwoman Alia O’Brien’s weaving of flute into the band’s musical canopy, which lends Blood Ceremony’s sound an instant recognisability, not to mention a dimension seldom heard in heavy rock music.

The record is not overtly focused on the novelty of the flute, mind you. The presence of that instrument makes Blood Ceremony stand out, but ultimately, the group’s most potent weapon turns out to be their prowess at smithing interesting and, above all, memorable songs. By intertwining the graceful pop sensibilities of Blues Pills, the tritone riffing style of Black Sabbath and the occult atmosphere of Jex Thoth, the band manages to come across as mysterious, ominous and accessible all at once. In no other song is this more enshrined than “Half Moon Street”, which starts off on a muted, country-style riff, and then proceeds, through a flute soliloquy, into a verse mimicking in tone and arrangement the Eagles classic “Hotel California” and, by extension, Kadavar’s “Old Man”. Indeed, the piece wastes no time drawing attention, and one’s intrigue is duly rewarded by the phenomenal, melodiously sung chorus of ”There’s a light on Half Moon Street / In this house we often meet / As my enemies grow bolder / They moved in closer / But I’m in league with something older” and, ultimately, a séance of flute and guitar solo’ing in the crescendo.

Hot on its tail, “The Weird of Finistere” then exposes a more subdued aspect of the band, as O’Brien transfers them into a haunting ballad and sets a dark tone with her oblique lyricism: ”The stars, the stars are much maligned and hidden from the day / At night, at night a darkling fiend upon our village preys / It looms in from neighb’ring wood from thickets wan and grey / And from the first we’ve known not rest a single day, a single day.”. The song serves as a moody conclusion to a central show of strength initiated by the title track, which, too, comes with woo-factor eleven, and underlines once and for all the symbiotic understanding that exists between O’Brien and the remaining musicians, of when to throttle up and when to keep it minimal.

But even though Blood Ceremony’s handle on penning a rocking tune has much to say in shipping copies of “Lord of Misrule” over the counter, its style of production must not be overlooked, either. Seldom does a band manage to evoke such a vivid recollection of heavy rock’s ‘70s heyday as this, or indeed sound as quintessentially ‘Zeppelin-esque as Blood Ceremony in the likes of “Loreley” and “Old Fires”. The lashings of Hammond organ by O’Brien and the licks of overdriven guitar by Sean Kennedy seem to warp time itself and send the listener back to a time when everything was vintage and done the analogue way. The music sounds raw and unabashedly alive, rejecting the glitzy allure of the mainstream yet embracing its accessibility without hesitation, and the outcome is an album with the capacity to please both the connoisseur and the seeker of easy fixes.

Admittedly, none of the nine tracks that comprise “Lord of Misrule” propose to transcend the confines of the retro rock genre, with O’Brien’s tweets of flute the only transgression applied. That is to say: the album is not designed to propagate novel ideas, or set afoot some revolutionary movement. Instead, what distinguishes it, is the consistency with which lasting marks are etched into the fabric of your memory — every song plays a part in tempting replays. And as such it is no exaggeration to slot Blood Ceremony amongst the likes of Graveyard and Kadavar as one of the leading institutions of 70’s rock revivalism.


Download: Lord of Misrule, Half Moon Street, The Weird of Finistere, Old Fires
For the fans of: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Jex Thoth, Led Zeppelin, Purson
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.03.2016
Rise Above Records

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