Blood Ceremony – The Old Ways Remain (2023)

Blood Ceremony - The Old Ways Remain (2023)
Artist: Blood Ceremony
Album: The Old Ways Remain
Genre: Heavy Prog
Label: Rise Above Records
Year Of Release: 2023
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

Tracklist:
1. The Hellfire Club (4:49)
2. Ipsissimus (3:12)
3. Eugenie (6:19)
4. Lolly Willows (3:35)
5. Powers of Darkness (3:16)
6. The Bonfires at Belloc Coombe (5:13)
7. Widdershins (3:20)
8. Hecate (2:46)
9. Mossy Wood (4:20)
10. Song of the Morrow (6:27)

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Personnel:
– Alia O’Brien / vocals, flute, organ
– Sean Kennedy / guitar
– Lucas Gadke / bass
– Michael Carrillo / drums

With:
– Laura Bates / violin
– Joseph Shabason / saxophone (3)
– Mike Eckert / pedal steel (8)

The font says it all. With it’s nod to Museo Rosenbach’s groundbreaking 1973 debut Zarathustra, Canadian’s own Blood Ceremony refuse to give in without a fight. Hard to believe, it’s been nearly eight years since our fellow Torontonians have unleashed a new album after their 2016 release Lord of Misrule. They released a single ‘Lolly Willows’ in 2019 and a killer take of The Who’s ‘Heaven and Hell’.

Now as we are coming to the end of 2023, Blood Ceremony are back in action once more with their fifth studio album The Old Ways Remain. This is a welcoming return to the band as they bring in more energy, more ‘60s psych, prog-sque doom approaches, garage rock, acid folk, and dare I say, Tull related lunches with the Master of Reality-era from Black Sabbath?

Well, you’re right on the money with that. ‘Eugenie’ takes us into the heart of selling your soul to the devil in the year of our lord, 1970. You have these train-chugging riffs that Sean Kennedy would set up the drive and melodic bluesy solos to follow O’Brien’s vocal lines by going down the rabbit hole of solving the case in hot pursuit of a Quintessence approach that’ll make you hallucinate to unknown worlds.

By this point, you might want to dig out your pink Island label albums from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s with the white “I” in the middle, followed by the swirling Vertigo label to get your Marfla shearling coat on. When I think of ‘Powers of Darkness’, I think of the Hanna-Barbera series Scooby Doo, Where Are You? I vision this song as another musical chase where the gang are being chased by another ghost in a haunted house who has magnificent flower power to get the Mystery Machine team in a trance.

A title like ‘The Bonfires At Belloc Coombe’ sounds like an old tale being told at a campfire, scaring campers by shitting their pants, 24/7. I love how Ceremony bring in the Sabbath-like approach by continuing where ‘The Wizard’ had left off as Laura Bates sets up the mood and tempo by luring its terrified customers with unbelievable results before paying homage to Purson and the legendary Rosalie Cunningham with its Hendrix-sque powder keg on ‘The Hellfire Club’.

If you think that’s crazy, the party has just begun. ‘Widdershins’ gives Kennedy carte blanche to make Alia even scarier and transforming herself into the forms of Alice Cooper’s golden years from the Killer-era. She puts on the make-up, goes into this chant-like call-and-response motif as her flute improvisation makes the mountains rise, top to bottom.

What Alia does on ‘Mossy Wood’ is her tipping of the hat to Cunningham’s Two Piece Puzzle years as if she wrote this song, continuing where ‘Donovan Ellington’ and ‘Donny Pt. 2’ had left off with a sing-along sea shanty midsection as ‘Song of the Morrow’ closes the album. The band pay tribute to composer and musician Adam Litovitz (Year of the Carnivore) who died on June 16, 2019.

There’s a connection to Litovitz and Blood Ceremony. Alia had worked with Adam by writing ‘Ghost of Love’ in the 2018 film Octavio is Dead! Alia was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Song at the 7th Canadian Screen Awards which she co-wrote with Sook-Yin Lee.

It’s a great way to close the album by saying farewell to Litovitz by giving him the perfect send-off. Combining the Nursery Cryme-era of Genesis, ‘Planet Caravan’, harmonising vocals of The Beatles, spaghetti western themes, and White Willow, you can imagine Alia fighting back tears during the recording of the song, knowing how much she, Lee, and Litovitz were an excellent team together.

The Old Ways Remain is an amazing ride. Metallic folk, and bringing the powers that be, it shows how far the band have come a long way since their formation in 2006. And for Blood Ceremony, they have finally reached the mountain top.
~ by Zachary Nathanson, echoesanddust

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