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Blood Ceremony: Organic Attack

Armed with their bravest, boldest album to date, Blood Ceremony are striking a blow for authenticity and imagination with Beelzebub’s approval

The Devil looms large over the metal underground.

Whether you have a penchant for the supernatural or just a passing interest in how utterly fucked up religion can be, Satan’s presence in our world has long been established as essential, from Sabbath to Venom to Mayhem and beyond. In fact, he gets everywhere these days, as Ghost’s recent triumph at the Grammys will attest.

For Toronto’s Blood Ceremony – one of the few bands propagating an effective blend of Sabbath-esque oomph and prog-psych trimmings before the occult rock bandwagon really started rolling – the Dark One provides a neat starting point for Lord Of Misrule, their fourth full-length and a self-evident milestone for all concerned.

“I think for us, the Devil’s an important literary figure,” says guitarist Sean Kennedy. “Most LaVeyan Satanists probably wouldn’t think of him as a real being, but as an important symbol. But for us, he’s just an interesting character! On Lord Of Misrule there are a lot of carnivalesque elements and the Devil comes in to disrupt the social order, so he’s a mischievous character, a trickster, rather than anything necessarily evil.”

These are, of course, well-worn and traditional themes for bands who belong to the broader doom metal and psychedelic rock realm, but somehow the new Blood Ceremony album wrings fresh intrigue from those familiar ingredients, exhibiting a disregard for genre conventions and even their own tried and tested formulae. Satan’s mischief clearly extends to the music itself, as more refined songwriting is balanced out by some of the most adventurous and experimental sounds the band have yet produced.

“Oh yeah, there’s so much you can do,” Sean avows. “I don’t feel we’d ever be limited or confined by the style we fell into when we started the group. Obviously if you name your band Blood Ceremony, you’re setting up certain expectations as far as lyrics and music are concerned. At first, a lot of people thought we were a death metal band. Some people we talked to after shows were pleasantly surprised! But there’s just so much you can write about and we’re all interested in a lot of strange movies and supernatural writers... there’s so much to draw upon so I don’t think we’ve exhausted our well of ideas yet. We’re in a good spot right now.”

It might seem odd to attribute rebellious instincts to a band who play music that could – somewhat cruelly, not to mention erroneously – be reduced to the epithet ‘Sabbath meets Tull’, but even within the relatively stable demands of the doom scene that spawned them, Blood Ceremony are still kicking against the pricks. They’re hardly the first to attempt such a thing, but Lord Of Misrule’s bonus selling point is that it was recorded entirely with analogue equipment, from tracking to mastering: a statement of stubborn resistance to the modern world, perhaps, or maybe just a declaration of love for a more imperfect time.

“This is the first 100% analogue recording we have done. We’ve always recorded live to tape and then mixed and mastered digitally, but this is the first one where the record you buy won’t have been digitised at any point in the process,” Sean explains with obvious pride. “But we’re not necessarily trying to sound like an old band. We’re not really thinking about that when we’re writing songs, but I guess there’s a sound quality from that era that we just prefer, you know? It was the golden era of heavy rock and psychedelic rock and the beginnings of heavy metal. Records sounded better then. It’s just what we grew up with. The state of pop music is just abysmal now. Everything’s mastered to be as loud as it can possibly be on an iPod. We just wanted to record in the same way that our favourite 60s and 70s groups did.”

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