Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d—an appropriate portent for the release of Blood Ceremony’s third full-length, ‘The Eldritch Dark’. The Toronto, Ontario occult rockers have seemingly gotten over the sophomore slump that was ‘Living with the Ancients’, an album that was punctuated by the brilliant track “Oliver Haddo”, but, for the most, seemed to be a middling effort that lurked in the shadow of the band’s self-titled debut. ‘The Eldritch Dark’ finds the band summoning similar lyrical themes found on their previous albums while further developing a sound of their own that doesn’t grasp so tightly to their influences. The band has partially shed the overt doom biases that were in greater abundance on the first two releases and fully embraced their paganistic hard rock inclinations. While the end result may be relatively less “heavy” Blood Ceremony are still able to summon spirits and spin tales that are rife with arcane darkness.
Blood Ceremony have always enchanted their tunes with a retro feel due to the production of the band’s debut and the inclusion of flute and organ courtesy of vocalist Alia O’Brien. With ‘The Eldritch Dark’ the band is delving even deeper into the past and it’s hard not to get an overriding 60’s vibe from the tunes, especially during the catchy chorus of “Goodbye Gemini” or from the bucolic, folk-tinged charm of “Lord Summerisle”, a haunting duet featuring lead vocals from bass player Lucas Gadke. “Lord Summerisle” is easily the slowest and softest tune penned by the band, but it also shows that they are progressing and experimenting with their song craft.
‘The Eldritch Dark’ may be less doom and more 60’s inspired pop, but the band still can weave a sonic tapestry that is wrought with eerie atmospherics that comes across as two parts sincere to one part camp. And, for the most part, it works. The fourth track, “Ballad of the Weird Sisters”, tells a tale in song form and finds the band in unfamiliar territory by including country style fiddling which yields an overall feel akin to the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. It’s an odd detour that isn’t totally bereft of charm.
In the pursuit of developing and honing their sound Blood Ceremony has managed to record an album that is both more varied and complex. ‘The Eldritch Dark’ avoids the pitfalls of its predecessor and each track breathes with a life of its own. In addition to the varied songwriting O’Brien has recorded some of her most compelling vocal melodies to date and her voice really shines on album opener “Witchwood” and the following track “Goodbye Gemini”. The organ and flute are the obvious contributions toward the band’s sound, but the album features its fair share of blistering guitar leads—most notably toward the end of album closer “The Magician”—and groovy bass lines. While ‘The Eldritch Dark’ is slightly front-loaded the overall album is a huge step up from their last album and fans may find that it rivals their self-titled debut. Blood Ceremony have easily surpassed expectations with their latest offering...strongly recommended.
Words: Steve Miller