Reviews Ceremony In the Spirit World Now

Ceremony

In the Spirit World Now

It’s fun to introduce old Ceremony to their new fans and hear comments like, “Wow, that guy must’ve worked out his anger issues”. It’s true that Ross Farrar’s lyrics have recently favored elegant introspection over spiteful threats to fight society with hate-packed fists, or to strangle it, or to curb stomp it, or to watch it burn to the fucking ground. Ceremony haven’t been making angry hardcore for the past three albums, and the dance tracks on In the Spirit World Now are the furthest cry from their powerviolence days. And that’s ok, because they still play plenty of old stuff at their live shows, giving everyone a chance to mosh and stage dive in between swaying and bopping.

Synths are the first thing we hear on In the Spirit World Now with the album’s lead single, “Turn Away the Bad Thing”. One long dissonant synth chord is joined by a dark driving bass line and rapid floor tom. This builds the tension much like a classic hardcore song might (I even witnessed audience members on their last tour preparing to slam dance during this intro, only to turn away crestfallen once the poppy verse took shape). The verse and chorus has a steady beat and catchy chords supported by synthpop. In the bridge, guest vocalist and doom metal goddess Chelsea Wolfe provides a dreamy heartbreaking lullaby. This is followed by guitarist Andy Nelson's dark distorted downstrokes and the same driving bass line building to the poppy outro sprinkled with a catchy pattern of jangly chords. This song is the perfect opener to an album that plays with similar themes throughout.

Guitarist Anthony Anzaldo favors the keys on this album. He enhances every single track through synth harmonies, lead melodies, or tantalizing and somewhat spooky effects. He also wields his guitar to provide jangling chords and funky rhythms, particularly on “Presaging the End” where they pierce the verses and chorus before the bridge where the guitar work is disco-esque. Clearly he’s evoking his idol Prince on this track. The whole album seems to nod at more of their poppier influences like New Order, Wire, and Devo. Aside from the synth work throughout this album, Devo even comes to mind as “I Want More” crescendos to a finale and the intertwining backing vocals mimic the call and response style of “Whip It”. Producer Will Yip (Title Fight, Tigers Jaw) helped Ross with his pop-driven singing on this record, which proved challenging for someone whose repertoire is mostly screaming. His lyrics are often indecipherable through his newfound singing voice, but they are his most poetic yet. The album is even punctuated in three parts by Ross’ poem, “California Jungle Dream States End” expressively read by a slightly raspy professor Ross had while earning his MFA in Poetry from Syracuse.

This album is their poppiest yet, but it still touches on all the ground they have covered leading up to this. A lot of reviews state that Ceremony have left hardcore behind entirely with their new sound, but to me their roots still shine through: each track is powered by driving bass lines; Andy Nelson’s chugging quick-paced guitar riffs often provide support. “Never Gonna Die Now”, the shortest song on the album, is a great nod to their earlier style. Dual guitars build up with metallic tremolo supported by underlying spooky synths to add to the dissonance. Ross barks the confrontational anti-religious lines “You wanna pray/ You wanna beg/ Press both hands/ What’s the difference?” This same doomy vibe is prominent on “From Another Age” where the bass line is dark and metal riffs bend on lead guitar.

In the Spirit World Now is a great foray into pop while still paying homage to their roots and their influences.

9.0 / 10Stephanie Thornton
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2019

9.0 / 10

9.0 / 10

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