Lord Of Misrule
In a tradition that dates back to Late Antiquity, the Lord Of Misrule or “Abbot Of Unreason” was the doomed figure elected to preside over the Feast Of Fools, an annual Saturnalian bacchanalia in which masters became servants and servants masters, while drunken revelry and strange entertainments pervaded Britain and parts of mainland Europe for 30 days. At the end of the month’s festivities, the Lord Of Misrule’s throat was cut in sacrifice to Saturn.
Taking its title from this fascinating slice of religious history, Blood Ceremony’s fourth album evokes pagan rites and the bizarre mystical underbelly of rural Britain. Embracing the psychedelic and progressive in their indelible songcraft, guitarist Sean Kennedy, bassist Lucas Gadke, drummer Michael Carrillo and triple threat vocalist/flautist/organist Alia O’Brien have created what Kennedy calls “a very English album,” despite the band’s very Canadian heritage. Recorded to analogue tape with producer Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios in London, Lord Of Misrule possesses a timeless quality within the rock epoch: It could stand alongside a Shocking Blue or Deep Purple record as easily as it will take its place among 2016’s finest albums.
Lord Of Misrule conjures a lush atmosphere in which the pastoral horror of The Wicker Man and the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin—as viewed through the lens flare of Ava Gardner’s witchy turn in 1970’s The Devil’s Widow—are alchemized into songs of seduction and mortality. “There’s no defining concept running through the album, unless one can imagine a lord of misrule offering each song as a different entertainment,” Kennedy says. “The lyrics tend to deal, in different measure, with obsession, love and death.”
Case in point: “Flower Phantoms,” which takes its title from a 1926 novel by Ronald Fraser. “This song is a bit of an anomaly for us,” Kennedy offers. “Alia wrote a dark, ’60s-inspired pop song, and I contributed the lyrics—which are quite dark. The book is about a young woman who escapes her dull life and develops an erotic attachment to various hothouse flowers in Kew Gardens. The lyrics emphasize the idea that his type of escape often leads toward death, with each path shrouded—figuratively—in hemlock leaves.”
Meanwhile, the origins of the deliriously catchy “The Weird Of Finistere” date back to Blood Ceremony’s 2008 debut. “I had written it around the time of our first album, but I never had any lyrics,” Kennedy explains. “I tried to write something that would sound a bit M.R. James, and Liam Watson added a bit of psychedelic reverse reverb to give it a more haunting feel.”
Album closer “Things Present, Things Past” marks a distinct change in approach for Blood Ceremony. “Our previous albums all end with longer, heavier tracks, so we finished this one with a relatively low-key, acoustic song,” our man offers. “The lyrics deal with the notion that so much of life is a performance, which is intensified and given meaning by the inevitability of death.”