You don’t usually get break-up albums from hardcore bands, but the recent break-up of Ceremony’s singer, Ross Farrar is the driving force behind their new album, The L-Shaped Man. Lyrically, the album charts the experience of losing someone you love and coming out the other side a changed person. Musically, the energetic hardcore of previous records has been strpped back, but there’s a new intensity in the vocal delivery, spiky guitars and heavy bass. The album was produced by John Reis of Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes fame.
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‘The L-Shaped Man’ sees Ceremony abandon all hope of ever resembling a hardcore band, instead following Iceage down the foulest of career paths: start angry and noisy, have a few drinks, loosen up and make confoundingly bad post-punk. Sounding like Joy Division but seemingly imitating Paul Banks on their way to homaging them, this record is something of a travesty, a record that mumbles through the post-punk tropes but feels vacuumed of all life.
Whereas Iceage’s development into drunken and bourgeois Nick Cave role-players was full of energy and definition, Ceremony’s punk luxury sounds empty. They've afforded themselves too much space, making a sound both airy and loose, contrasting their previously suffocating and uncompromising records. You can feel the emptiness ricochet around your ears with these songs. On "Your Life In France", they play boisterous guitar licks off against the walls around it, the tone strikingly metallic. This production is coupled with a meandering attempt at genre songwriting, with “Bleeder” aimlessly wandering into its furious climax. “The Pattern” uses yawning string bends and lyrics so depleted it could be That One Cheeky Song on the new Franz Ferdinand record.
Ceremony are best when they’re losing their shit, and that’ll translate through any genre in any solar system: the scathing, scratched chord sequence of “Root of the World” couples marvellously with those final act post-hardcore skramz this band know so well. It’s a little post-punk meets hardcore treat for the ears, and while a lot of this record veers between silly and boring, Ceremony will never be anything but a good band. Here’s hoping they swing back to the known pleasures.
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