Album Review: Living With the Ancients by Blood Ceremony

For me, the purchase of this record came right out of left field.  I was doing some Youtube surfing and stumbled upon a track of theirs off their previous effort and within 10 seconds I was completely hooked and knew I had to have a record by Blood Ceremony as soon as possible.  The blend of doom-y Sabbath-ian riffs and rhythms, female vocals that are like a mix of Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Ozzy’s Black Sabbath days lulled me in, and then a heavy kick of jazz flute ala Jethro Tull immediately appeased the side of me that loves great melody and non-standard instruments in metal.  Luckily that same evening I was browsing the local record store and lo and behold their latest release, Living With the Ancients, was sitting there just waiting for me to pick it up, which I did post-haste.  When I got home and popped the record in I had some very high expectations based off what I heard from the couple of songs I heard on Youtube, and Living With the Ancients delivered flawlessly and lived up to that huge hype I built up in my head in such a short period of time.

The album kicks off with the song “The Great God Pan” and it immediately sets off the tone you’re going to be getting into for the rest of the record.  The modern and clean recording sounds great coming out of my speakers, but there is an old school touch that make you feel that this album was recorded in a studio filled with shag carpeting and ‘hazed’ dudes with killer mustaches and bell-bottom jeans.  When vocalist Alia O’Brian’s vocals kick in her mysterious and ethereal voice begins to sing lyrics revolving around the Pagan/Wiccan god Pan tossing a nice occult backdrop to the tune, and the rest of the record.  As the song progresses the moods and sounds of electric organs work their way in really building upon that mysterious forest cult atmosphere that has been created.  The rhythm section, made up by Lukas Gadke (bass) and Andrew Haust (drums),  keeps to a nice and modest mid pace with a deep focus on groove.  To cap it all off, a huge Iommi inspired guitar solo thunders its way in to close off the tune.  The tone that guitarist Sean Kennedy is using is just great as when he nails the low octave notes they come out sounding similar to the sound of a saxophone (I had to listen to it quite a few times to double-check myself and be sure it wasn’t in fact, a baritone sax).  It just sounds great and the tune makes for such a great opener establishing almost everything that the record is looking to bring forth.

Within 10 seconds of hearing the 2nd track, “Coven Tree”, I already verified that this was a more than worthy purchase as Alia takes her flute out to play.  Riding on a mid tempo riffs that brought to mind “Electric Funeral” and hypnotizing rhythms flowed perfectly with the eerie yet jazzy notes pouring out of the woodwind adding a nice, smooth texture to the song.  The inclusion of the instrument also really fleshes out the 60’s vibe the band has going on painting a picture of a bunch of hippies in the forest jamming out to some Moody Blues and Jethro Tull while practicing a variety of occult rituals.  The instrumental song “The Hermit” takes a step away from the metal and lets Alia’s flute playing flourish while adding even more to that ‘hippies practicing rituals’ mood.

“My Demon Brother” dives forth with some Sabbath love with some sick grooves and riffs, a cyclone of electric organ, and great vocal hooks.  “Morning of the Magicians” is a great track where, instead of copy/pasting the already wonderful established formula, Blood Ceremony dips into some prog rock territory as the song starts of with said formula and then explores it deeper taking the song in many different directions and moods and tempo.  I love how the upbeat jazzy beginning of the song seamlessly transitions into a nice quite and trippy mood similar to some of Opeth’s more laid back, proggier pieces(think “Nepenthe”).

“Oliver Haddo” (for those curious who Mr. Haddo is, he is a character in the novel The Magician by Somerset Maugham that the occult leader, Alister Crowley, took one of his many pen names from.  The song seems to reference both the novel and Crowley) boasts a great driving rhythm stuffed to the brim with huge and bluesy guitar solos and a mystical atmosphere so thick you could rip a chunk of it off and chew on it like bubble gum.  This is the kind of song that you sit around a raging bonfire in the middle of nowhere passing a doobie headbanging too completely lost in a stoned trance.  The kind of ‘evil’ stuff our parent’s parents warned them about 😉

“Night of Augury” sticks with the sound that has been very well established up to this point, and while not doing anything spectacular is a totally solid song that keeps the great flow of the record going strong.  After a brief 2nd instrumental called “The Witches Dance”, “Daughter of the Sun” rocks it way in to close the record off on a high note.  Like “Morning of the Magicians” it boasts many tempo changes and moods while sticking mainly with that nice mid paced rhythm and has some great vocal and guitar hooks topped off with a great midway flute jam.

While there is more than plenty ‘retro worship’ going on for the entire course of Living With the Ancients the whole thing comes off feeling fresh and new.  Having an instrument like the flute and electric organ make many appearances throughout the record imbues a mystical and psychedelic sense that fits wonderfully with the time period the ‘metal’ influences come from as well.  To praise Alia once again, it’s nice to hear a female vocalist who isn’t aiming for either the huge and dramatic vocals ala Nightwish nor the ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ style akin to Arch Enemy.  They have power even though they lack range, what they do is fit the music perfectly.  If you ever wondered what Jethro Tull would have sounded like if Tony Iommi stuck around and they went on to do a collaboration with Jefferson Airplane, this should be on your ‘to buy’ list asap.  And if that thought never crossed you mind you should check it out anyway.  It’s a great album filled with well written songs and great performances.  Now excuse me while I dance around a bonfire stark naked incanting demons in a forest hopped up on hallucinogens (responsibly) while blasting this record.  Peace Love and Metal!!!

Release Date:  March 1st, 2011

Record Label:  Metal Blade (USA)/Rise Against (EU)

Nationality:  Canada


About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on August 13, 2012, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Liking this a lot. When I saw the title Morning of the Magicians I briefly wondered if it was a version of The Flaming Lips tune. Nope, but a an ideosyncratic number with a whiff of old-school psychelia nonetheless. I’m definitely hearing the allusions to Sabbath you describe but not in a predictable Doom/Stoner way. Another band on my ‘must check out more list…

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