I should start by fessing up to my love of Ceremony. Although I may be slightly biased in reviewing their new album, I also feel I have a unique perspective for listening to their new, admittedly different direction as a band and offering some thoughts… so here goes.
The record starts out with “Hysteria,” the band’s only released single promoting the album thus far. It’s the perfect start to the record; it has strong guitar and drums, a catchy chorus that will be stuck in your head all day, and concludes with gang vocals. I immediately noticed that vocalist Ross Farrar’s voice has this strange muffled effect, present through the entire record. I can’t decide if I like this or not, at points feeling a little redundant and almost like you’ve been listening to the same song for 6 minutes. It would also be important to mention that he seems to have strayed away entirely from his old vocal approach. It’s a new sound, a more mature shouting and almost singing, rather than the piercing, angry (I can’t even think of the right word that describes how fucking angry this dude was) bellow that Ceremony is known for in their earlier releases.
The next couple of songs stand out best with their surfy riffs and guitar solos, which is apparently a theme throughout the rest of the album. You read that correctly, “surfy.” I love this. It isn’t overly present as with bands like Night Birds, but just hints of it seamlessly within their sound. At the halfway mark, the song “Adult” sounds like a reminder of opener “Hysteria,” with the rougher guitar sound rather than the dazed elements in the rest of the album. ”Hotel” and “Nosebleed” bring back the slower and dreamier resonance that Zoo had in the first half. Soon after though, “Community Service” picks up the pace again and almost makes you want to smile, but feel insane at the same time because you’re smiling while listening to Ceremony?! What the fuck?! Great song nonetheless.
Finally, Zoo comes to an end with the song “Video,” a faithful conclusion to the record. This is the only song that Farrar does something different with his vocals, kind of like the “Into The Wayside Part III” for Zoo. In his lower parts in the verses, it immediately reminds me of Ian Curtis of Joy Division… very dark and cryptic. Instrumentally, the song shows a very Pixies influence, a band they clearly like and covered on their 6 Cover Songs EP. This is not surprising at all for Ceremony to draw these influences, especially for a very dramatic song that is fitting to wrap up such a dramatic and highly anticipated record.
Ceremony has held such integrity in their progression as a band and are getting the credit that they deserve for it. Everyone is noticing this development and some have grown along with it. Of course not everyone is happy about the stylistic changes, but you can’t please everyone. Bands have tried and failed in doing this, changing their sounds completely from one genre to another. But Ceremony connected the dots, from their angry and bitter beginnings on Violence, Violence, to their eerie sound on Still, Nothing Moves You, and aggressively more with Rohnert Park, which served as a perfect precursor to Zoo.