Album Review: Blood Ceremony - "The Eldritch Dark"

During this recent revival of traditional metal, it has become commonplace that any band with blues roots and an analog mentality gets slapped with the label “sounds like Black Sabbath.” While that speaks volumes about the enormity of Black Sabbath’s legacy, it’s also an easy, marketable out for any band that rocks at less than 200 bpm.

If anyone tells you that the closest analog to Blood Ceremony and their new album “The Eldritch Dark” is Sabbath, that person is either lazy, lacking in imagination, or not paying attention. Blood Ceremony is the answer to the question “what if Jethro Tully really HAD been a metal band in 1988?” Not just because of the utilization of flute, but because both bands grasp the intrinsic value of catchy, slow riffs. Blood Ceremony is also colored with similar brushes to bands like Hawkwind and Heart, combining sultry female vocals with shambling, deep-seated pacing.

Listening to “The Eldritch Dark” is like looking at an old European castle; you marvel at its sentinel presence, timeless grace and steadfast strength, nothing it’s impressiveness as it channels the relics of a bygone era. The music is painted entirely in earthy tones, punctuated by periods of inky, blues blackness.

Lest we sound completely dismissive of the Black Sabbath parallels, there is a certain commonality in the base sensibilities of both bands. The title track features a riff that would have sounded right at home on the Birmingham band’s first record. Blood Ceremony doesn’t stop there though, adding flute and other elements over the top of a similar riff for “Drawing Down the Moon.”

As I’m sure you’re beginning to recognize, the strongest part of “The Eldritch Dark” is the frankly brilliant arrangement, which mixes in a whole bunch of non-traditional elements into the natural swampiness of traditional metal. You need not get father than opener “Witchwood” to see a museum-quality example of pacing and integration.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can offer the album is that for a record willing to take its time, “The Eldritch Dark” is never boring. Songs like “Ballad of the Weird Sisters” take twists and unexpected turns from section to section, but still manage to make each part seem seamless and flowing.

Let me take a minute to mention the album’s feature single, “Lord Summerisle.” I can’t quite grip why this is the single, as the tries to blend male vocals into the mix, in stark contrast to most of the album. To top that off, the cut is a musical departure from the balance of the record, opting for a very airy, flowery approach. It’s all a little too “Spock jams with the space hippies” for me, and is a surprisingly weak point on an otherwise great accomplishment.

Between the alluring vocals of Alia O’Brien, the gigantic hook riffs, clever harmonies and incredible arrangement, “The Eldritch Dark” is a complete and inspiring piece of traditional metal. Even the most cynical fan who believes the genre’s best days were gone thirty years ago will find themselves entrances. Blood Ceremony has produced a clear contender for year-end accolades.

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