How long can a punk band hold onto being hardcore? It would be exhausting just to manifest the songs that reflect the young angst and anger that only cools with age as the next generation takes their place. But to then play these songs over and over for fans who expect nothing short of absolute insanity, how long can anyone keep burning at both ends without burning out? A few of these hardcore bands even do the impossible and achieve success. What could be worse motivation to dismantling The Man than being rewarded for your efforts?
Ceremony released their first full-length album, Violence Violence, in 2006. No song from that debut is over two minutes with most being under one minute. Each song is a full-on sprint, putting all of their rage and artistic talent in blasts of burn-it-all-down ethos. To even compare Violence Violence with Ceremony’s latest album, In The Spirit World Now, is rough to translate. Imagine if the same group that made the Saw films went on to make Garden State. Both are groundbreaking films that captured wide audiences and set new standards for entertainment, but for entirely different audiences and reasons.
Ceremony’s drift from hardcore punk to indie punk has been evident for a while now, particularly in their last two albums Zoo and The L-Shaped Man. Similar to how I assume a British accent makes a person seem more knowledgeable, Ceremony’s origins as a hardcore California-punk band is hard to recognize as they now sound reminiscent to new age British punk. They have clearly broadened their skills as evident from their focus on creating alluring rhythms to go with story-focused lyrics rather than blasting their audience’s eardrums with as much fast-paced sound as they can muster out of their instruments. It is as if a fighter who won because of their ferocious melees harnessed their potential into refined strength. All of the musical potency remains, but with infinite more focus that helps the album be understood rather than just felt.
“From Another Age” is the best song of the album, bringing a funky beat run through a synthesizer that is nostalgic yet original. They sing, “Coming from the planet sun/ Falling on everyone/ Stuck inside a self-machine/ Trying to find a way to exist.” The lyrics only make sense if you’re high, but the confidently wild vibe makes it even more enticing. With other highlights including, “Turn Away the Bad Thing” and “Presaging the Edge,” it is an odd choice that they include interluding poems designated by hyphens, “/, //, and ///.” All songs are technically poems set to a beat, but these interludes are like being present at a neighborhood poetry session you were guilted into going to. They are not particularly interesting and for less than twenty-second segments, they feel awfully long. Interludes are tricky to implement and not particularly worthwhile in this case.
Fans who have followed them from the beginning will have had to cool down significantly in order to appreciate the refined direction. This side of Ceremony also has the benefits of attracting a wider audience who want to dip their toes in the punk pool before getting back to being responsible. Overall it shows maturity and that Ceremony is not going to burn out anytime soon.