Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
From the introductory strains of its excellent opener “The Great God Pan,” it’s obvious that Living with the Ancients marks a vast step forward for Toronto doom/psych/stoner metal outfit Blood Ceremony. The band’s self-titled 2008 debut remains an eminently enjoyable album, suffused with the droning organs, school-of-Sabbath riffs, and flute solos that have come to define Blood Ceremony’s sound. But plagued at times by goofy lyrics (like “I see witches in the sky/Climb toward the Quaalude eye” from “Into the Coven”), it sometimes sounded like the band was trying a bit too hard to drive home the pseudo-occultism of their lyrics.
Ancients presents a band more comfortable in their stylish neo-pagan trappings. Guitarist Sean Kennedy’s riffs are just as heavy and catchy as on the first album. This time around, though, the rest of the band seems to have grown around him. Vocalist/flautist/keyboardist Alia O’Brien sounds more comfortable, her keyboard lines exhibiting an almost prog rock-ish intricacy. Likewise, clipped tracks like “The Hermit” and “The Witch’s Dance” showcase her fluting and provide a nice instrumental counterpoint to some of the heavier tracks (the latter tracks pair as nicely with the outstanding album closer “Daughter of the Sun” as Black Sabbath’s “Orchid” does with “Children of the Grave”). Lyrically, the band hews close to all the recreational paganism, occultism, and Satanism, with several tracks sounding like legitimate heavy metal anthems, with the singalong chorus to “My Demon Brother”—”Unholy demon/My demon brother/Won’t you see what we have to offer?”—proving especially catchy.
If the bulk of heavy metal can be defined by a manic, speed-freak obsession with proficiency on one end, and a pitilessly heavy sluggishness at the other, Living With Ancients finds a place somewhere in the middle. Blood Ceremony’s music exhibits doom metal’s preoccupation with minting new riffs, in the face of every riff having been invented by Tony Iommi and Jus Oborn, as well as a technical adeptness (reflected as much on record as in their incredible live shows) worthy of Uriah Heep or Angel Witch. Living With the Ancients presents a band incredibly comfortable with their position in the liminal space between psych rock and doom metal—music as ideal for your next mushroom trip as your seasonal pagan ritual party.