Today’s review is about a very special 2011 album titled “Living With The Ancients“, by the band Blood Ceremony. Reviewing this release almost calls for a necessary mention of Black Sabbath, since it is quite the doomer. But while Sabbath’s recent new effort “13” gives you more or less what you expect, Blood Ceremony’s music exceeds all expectations; The band doesn’t merely takes inspiration from past groups but bring their own refreshing musicianship to the table, creating what almost seems like their own “Blood Ceremony” subgenre, akin to what Cradle of Filth did in the 90’s when they merged gothic and black metal elements together into new nocturnal soundscapes.
The style of Blood Ceremony can be described as bridging the folkish Jethro Tull with heavy metal\doom rock, channelling a type of renaissance imagery and sound of occult melancholy – not one that summons fear, instead enchanting you like a lover whispering in the darkness. It speaks of old magic and ancient gods, not from the perspective of a believer distanced from his monotheistic god, but from that of a participant in pagan belief and worship; A witch, a magician, a “daughter of the sun“, her voice filled with soulful intent.
Straight from the onset with “The Great God Pan“, when the instrumental section kicks in, you know you are in for a classic – the keys, the solos..though follower “Coven Tree” is an even stronger track, vocalist Alia O’Brien’s flute playing shining flawlessly through them like a second singer. It paints everything with a bright color you cannot take your eyes off, and inspired you feel your heart rising in your chest.
The heavy gloom returns with “My Demon Brother“, its simple repeating verse-chorus formula being the most radio friendly tune on “Living With The Ancients“. I love how Blood Ceremony let each song go its way; Some are short like that, easy-going & riff oriented; some focus more on the narrative(“Morning of the Magicians”), while others allow vast space and time for the guitar parts, solos and eerie organ work to reach their full potential. And in those prized long moments of climatic conclusion, you can see the band really go all out, the magic of improvisation happening right in front of you, similar to the experience of a live concert.
Demonstrating this lengthy free-spirited approach most perfectly is the best song on the album, “Daughter Of The Sun“:
Though at times ambitious in length, “Living With The Ancients” is actually quite an easy listen that never burderns the ears, also containing wonderful breaks in between songs such as “The Hermit“. The only possible downside to this release might be O’Brien’s voice, which isn’t as strong as her flute playing. However, once you give the intriguing lyrics a chance, you come to appreciate her vocal presence much more.
This review might not be the best I’ve written, but “Living With The Ancients” might very well be the best album I have reviewed on this website. I don’t know if it’s a 10 out of 10 perfect effort, but it achieves at least one quality that marks a classic album; Being of timeless quality that will always remain relevant, ten, twenty and a hundred years from now – never to erode, never to lessen. And creating something like that – that kind of feat – is one bands rarely get to accomplish. Well done, Blood Ceremony.