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BLOOD CEREMONY with HOLLOW EARTH at the Silver Dollar, Thursday, February 21. Rating: NNNN
Only at a Blood Ceremony show are devil horns the correct response to a triumphantly raised flute.
At previous shows, Alia O'Brien was just a bit too timid to convincingly sell her band's mix of doom metal riffs, occult lyrics and dark psychedelia, but the singer/flautist/organist has developed the colossal stage presence to match her massive vibrato wail. There's an obvious element of camp inherent in playing songs about witchcraft, human sacrifice, the demon Astaroth and diabolical twins, and Toronto's Blood Ceremony have no problem playing it up.
Despite the proficient musicianship of guitarist Sean Kennedy and the rhythm section, O'Brien commanded the audience's attention with her intense showmanship. When she wasn't playing it, she wielded her flute like the ultimate metal stage prop. And when she was, the tassels hanging down from her sleeves provided the perfect visual accompaniment.
There are countless doom bands out there recycling Black Sabbath and Pentagram riffs, but few do it as tightly or convincingly as Blood Ceremony. An encore Jethro Tull cover was maybe just a bit too on-the-nose for a flute-tinged psych-metal band, but they certainly aren't afraid of owning their influences. A few debut live performances of songs from their upcoming third album, just finished mixing by Ian Blurton (who fit right into the heavily bearded crowd), proved their spin on heavy 70s rock is far from just a retread.
Openers Hollow Earth share a similar affinity for prog rock meandering and lyrics that dabble in fantasy, but their reference points more Rush than Sabbath and subjects of choice more questing gnomes than unholy demons. It shouldn't come as a surprise that they're made up of members of other local groups (Pony Da Look, Saffron Sect, Beethoven Frieze and the occasional guest spot from Blood Ceremony's Sean Kennedy). Hollow Earth is the type of band where dexterous musicians go to indulge their nerdier impulses: skewed time signatures, hammy stage moves and solos galore.