Re-issues are an unusual beast – usually there is an overt reason for a band ploughing their back catalogue, such as an anniversary or whatever: occasionally, they come out of the blue (or the black, in this case), without seeming to have any particular explanation for their presence… as appears to be the case with the self-titled debut by this Canadian doom crew, re-emerging less than four years after its original release.
It’s clear from the outset (well, after the slowly building atmospherics of the first 90 seconds or so of opener ‘Master Of Confusion’ anyway) that this four-piece do not fit easily into a pure doom metal categorization, as there are heavy elements of late-60s early-70s psychedelia and electric folk melded into the crushing, behemothic riffs, with heavy use of both organ and, more especially, the flute in a way which has not been heard since Jethro Tull in their heyday.
In fact, the Tull comparisons are more than apt, as the likes of ‘I’m Coming With You’, with its eerie folky overtones and undertones, sounds a bit like Ian Anderson returning the favour to Tony Iommi by guesting on ‘Master Of Reality’, except with Janis Joplin, Maddy Prior or Sandy Denny on the vocal duties. ‘Into The Coven’ is even more psychedelic, while ‘The Rare Lord’ opens with a distinctly Zeppelin-esque intro before again crossing Sabbath and Tull in a heady brew.
The other striking aspect of the album is the unique vocal of Alia O’Brien (yes, in case you haven’t guessed it from the above references, Blood Ceremony are one of the rare bands operating in this particular sub-genre that employ a female voice): at times sounding fragile and almost eerie, at others plunging into the darkness of the subject material, at times floating above the density of the rest of the band (as on the aforementioned ‘I’m Coming…’), at others merging seamlessly alongside the downtuned guitar, such as with ‘Return To Forever’.
The whole effect is hypnotic, drawing you into the album and entwining you in its rapture. If you’re looking for something to confuse the fuck out of your nosey neighbours while out washing the Harley on a Sunday morning, this is definitely the album for you.
A meritorious 7.5/10
• ‘Blood Ceremony’ is available now on Metal Blade / Rise Above.