Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Metal & Hardcore Albums

7. Blood Ceremony
The Eldritch Dark
(Metal Blade)

Listening to the third album from Toronto's Blood Ceremony is a bit like stepping through a darkly curtained doorway into an alternate but nearby convergence of space and time. The Eldritch Dark swims within the tides of nostalgia but draws on a fine vintage that never quite was. The record is heavy on blues-rock groove, with a good dose of backwoods folk, some snarlier-than-usual vocals and, as we've come to expect, the most aggressive flute playing around.

Solos traded back and forth between guitar, organ and flute approach the organic fluidity of a jam, especially in short instrumental "Faunus," which foregrounds the bass more than any other track. Many Blood Ceremony riffs are downright catchy, and "Goodbye Gemini" captures this best. On top of catchiness, "Ballad of the Weird Sisters" has the added charm of an eerie tale and a fiddle intervention, spinning a "Devil Went Down to Georgia" kind of vibe.

The most atypical song here is an acoustic ballad, "Lord Summerisle," which is vaguely reminiscent of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" but more folk than psychedelic, featuring (unusually) male lead vocals and female harmonies. The record's second half begins to seem less intense until the final highlight, "The Magician," which stars, once again, the creepy character Oliver Haddo, and features one final jam. Then, The Eldritch Dark ends before it feels like it should be over, as Blood Ceremony capitalize on the strategy of leaving your listeners wanting more. (Laura Wiebe)