"Living With the Ancients"

By Dr. Abner Mality

A few years ago when Blood Ceremony's self-titled debut came out, there was nothing quite like it on the market, with the possible exception of Jex Thoth. An archaic tribute to the occult rock of the late 60's and early 70's, it was a near perfect marriage of early Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Coven. Now it's 2011 and there's quite a bit of competition in the retro-occult rock field, which is currently swept up in a wave of "Ghost" fever. How would Blood Ceremony's second offering hold up?

The band hasn't really swerved a bit from the debut, except things are maybe a little darker and more epic, but this kind of sound is already starting to wear a bit thin. I'd say "Living With The Ancients" is a bit heavier and the songs more involved, but the key is still the sultry female vocals of Alina O'Brien as well as her Tull-like flute work. Honestly, Alina does not have a "knock out" voice but I still find it a welcome change from all the precious Gothic divas one finds in Within Temptation, Delain, Unsun, etc., etc. The occult touch is still definitely here and maybe even more intense, without diving into blasphemy or extreme bad taste.

To me, first cut "The Great God Pan" and closer "Daughters of the Sun" form a strong bookend for a rather mediocre mid-section. The riffs are thick, doomy and Sabbath-like, with frequent breaks for flute and analog organ...simple but effective stuff. Some of the mid-album like "My Demon Brother" and "Morning of the Magicians" are rather by the numbers and forgettable. "Night of Augury" makes great use of a powerful Hammond organ and a more upbeat pace. "The Hermit" and "The Witches Dance" are brief, melodic bits with that medieval folk feel...the band is smart enough to keep these relatively short.

"Living With The Ancients" won't really disappoint anybody who enjoyed Blood Ceremony's debut, but it does seem to lack the freshness that effort had. We'll see what record #3 brings to the altar...