By Danielle Griscti
Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern saw no time or space wasted on Saturday night, as the eagerly anticipated album The Eldritch Dark by Blood Ceremony got an official release party. People were milling around from the bar to the candlelit merch table until being entranced by the groovy sounds of all three stellar bands. It was more likely to see people shoegazing than starting a mosh pit, though there was of course plenty of head-banging from the first riffs through to the last.
The order of the night was a mix of doom and psychedelic rock, in varying blends. The night began with Montréal’s Cauchemar and their unique brand of traditional doom metal. Frontwoman Annick Giroux layered her clean, resonant vocals (mostly in French) over the driving riffs of tracks like “Le Fantôme” and “Tenebrario”. In stark contrast to their name (the word cauchemar is French for “nightmare”) they were full of positive energy, definitely not the slow and somber variety of doom. Think less My Dying Bride, more Pagan Altar and Pentagram.
Added bonus: A cover of Rush’s “2112”. Awesome.
Biblical swung things back almost entirely to the psychedelic/stoner rock end of the spectrum. These guys love Motorhead and don’t make any secret of it, and it works. Speedy guitar sections and moments where I couldn’t figure out how the drummer was finding time to breathe were interspersed with what can only be described as some truly trippy sequences. Usually it takes quite a bit for a stoner rock band to stand out in my mind; when these guys took the stage, I thought the only thing I would remember was that the bassist/keyboardist looks *just* like William Murderface. When they left the stage, I felt like I had just attended a private jam session in the middle of the desert, with nothing but the stars overhead. So yeah, these guys are way more than your average stoner rock.
Blood Ceremony’s psychedelic doom brought everything together perfectly. This band has already been compared to many of the most respected and admired influences in heavy music, including Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, so I’ll admit my expectations were high as they were setting up. With very little pretense, they dove right into their set which featured tracks from the new album as well as some established audience favourites like “Oliver Haddo”. A smoke-filled backdrop and a barefoot bassist set the stage for vocalist/flautist/keyboardist Alia O’Brien to cast a spell over the crowd. Her seemingly effortless weaving between instruments, combined with undeniable natural charisma, made her a magnetic presence on stage. With a well-timed appearance from a featured violinist on two tracks near the end of the set, the band really hit their stride.
The crowd couldn’t get enough, pleading for their favourites when it came time for the encore (“Daughter of the Sun” being the most prominent) and listening enraptured to Alia’s sincere expressions of gratitude at the end of the set. My only regret is that I was too busy taking photos to attack that beautiful merch table. Next time Blood Ceremony, next time…