PICK OF THE WEEK: Haunting vibes swim as Blood Ceremony return on sultry ‘The Old Ways Remain’

Photo by Matthew Manna

All types of music pay homage to the past and the vibes that come from that era. Metal and heavy music are no different as plenty of bands hitch their style to those who came before them, sometimes downright aping the form instead of carving out their own identities. Part of the issue is it sounds like hero worship based in the modern era. Very few bands transcend and feel legitimately their own spirit.

For five records now, Canadian doom power Blood Ceremony has created art that sounds like it was bled out five decades ago, locked in a safe, and released in calculating manner. Yet, that’s not the case, and it goes to show how much heart and mind Blood Ceremony have invested in not only playing magickal, witchy music that would be firmly at home in the deep past, but they do it with their own personality and charisma, which has made them their own entity. The band—vocalist/flautist/organist Alia O’Brien, guitarist Sean Kennedy, bassist Lucas Gadke, and drummer Michael Carrillo—return with their infectious new record “The Old Ways Remain,” a title based on a lyric from “Witchwood” from their 2013 album “The Eldritch Dark,” and the concept of past spirits haunting the present is encased masterfully in their music that will live in your flesh and bones for years to come. The long seven-year layoff after their last record is satisfied with this 10-track album that proves how special this band is and what an amazing grip they have on their mission and style that continues to haunt us gleefully.

“The Hellfire Club” gets the record off to a fitting start, that being haunting organs settling in, strong psyche riffs riding high, and O’Brien’s vocals leading, albeit more softly than usual. That’s fitting for the track as her flute opens up and joins the keys, and the track gets fiery as hell, punching back and surging before draining into the background. “Ipsissimus” is a powerhouse, jolting and letting the flute flutter, the one-word chorus acting as a goddamn ear worm that refuses to vacate. The guitars layer in some ’70s heat, and all the elements come together to haunt your mind. “Eugenie” is about the 1970 sexploitation/horror film (full name is “Eugenie … The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion”), and it’s a riveting, sultry affair where O’Brien’s vocals truly come to life. “Now comes the hour, now comes to mystery,” she calls as the organs swell (um, no pun intended), guitars charge, and sax adds a seductive edge that devastates. “Lolly Willows” could be a sure-fire hit, the flutes causing your brain to swirl, O’Brien insisting, “She will love you.” Guitars charge up as the story continues, the admission of, “But we hope she’s coming down,” adding a wry sense to the whole thing. “Powers of Darkness” has a flowery, vintage feel, something expected and welcome from Blood Ceremony. The chorus is catchy as hell, and the psychedelic marching makes your heart race, basking in infernal energy.

“The Bonfires at Belloc Coombe” unleashes start-stop power, guitars churning, and violins crying (played by Laura Bates of Völur) as the track heads into a dark shuffle. The tease to dance in the bonfires is infectious, the shadows deepen as the guitar work and flute are in lock step, soulful calls ringing in your ears and into the night. “Widdershins” opens with fiery riffs and alluring verses, the flute playing daring you to tread the left-hand path. Jarring, ominous swirling makes the room spin as the rushing chorus returns for one more, mercifully bleeding away. “Hecate” again recalls spirits from many decades ago, its haunting aura strengthening its grip, melting in smooth, dreamy madness. The track feels like a pop song marred with psychedelic insanity, made into something that still gets into your bloodstream but blackens your eyes and heart. “Mossy Wood” has a rustling, folkish vibe, definitely in line with Blood Ceremony creations from their past. The bass plods as violins scrape new trails, and then everything goes even darker than usual. Mesmerizing playing thickens, synth zaps, and the final steps are encased in an amber sheath. Closer “Song of the Morrow” cools your mind, moving slower and heading into a cosmic stretch, letting hypnosis take total control. The singing is washed out as the flute makes ghosts dance, dark tidings washing over amid guitars electrifying, melodies lapping, and strange noises fully engulfing.

Time stands still for Blood Ceremony, even after such a lengthy layoff, as their world remains unchanged, which is an eternal gift delivered by “The Old Ways Remain.” It is, then, a fitting title for this collection, one that adds to the band’s power of occult dreams and bleeding madness, leaving you wondering how far down the rabbit hole you’re willing to follow. Our guess is pretty fucking far, just like we have, with Blood Ceremony waiting at the end with open arms, ready to greet you at your door.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bloodceremonyrock/

To buy the album, go here: https://riseaboverecords.com/product/the-old-ways-remain/

For more on the label, go here: https://riseaboverecords.com/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.