Ceremony - In The Spirit World Now (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


In The Spirit World Now (2019)

Relapse records

I'm shocked people are still moaning about Ceremony's shift in style. Honestly, whether you like it or not, it's time to get over it. The backlash this band's gotten, not to mention others like Title Fight and Pianos Become the Teeth has always been confusing to me, especially as folks are still calling it experimental. It's evolution, whether or not it's your cup of tea -- well, that's up to you. And if anything, In The Spirit World Now is the most emphatic and definitive statement that the post-hardcore loving Ceremony is all but dead and to them, it's the right time to bring the '80s back. Is this the best Ceremony record since Rohnert Park... is it better than Zoo or The L-Shaped Man, well the jury's still out because as fun and punchy as it is, this is one album (their Relapse debut, ironically) you can tell will take some time to digest and soak in properly.

Off the cuff, "Turn Away The Bad Thing" feels like the last album, with moody, atmospheric guitars a la Joy Division and Ross Farrar reminding you what guys like Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy sounded like. But what I admire most is how Ceremony mesh together a lot more influences and still create a pot of their own sounds. The synth dream-pop, '80s new wave feel is stronger on the album than anything else, so if you're into nostalgia, then fans of Gary Numan, Devo and New Order (see the outstanding third track "Further I Was" just for its "Blue Monday" drum beats) will have a lot to soak in. Even fans of the Clash will have a post-punk blast on songs like "We Can Be Free" as Ceremony lets Farrar's vocals do most of the smooth work on groovy baselines and melodic hooks. And this approach is less dark, less aggressive and filled with swagger -- again, more than anything they've done before to the point you've got a dance album on hand. What's so intriguing is the haunting lyrics and shimmery tones really do well to craft that afterlife, ethereal aesthetic.

It's definitely a natural progression from the last record and it shouldn't be surprising how the lack of aggression works on songs like "Say Goodbye To Them", and the back end which to me succeeds as the songs get shorter and punchier. In fact, The Wire fans would recognise a lot of influences from 154 and Pink Flag too as you can tell the band just wants to honour the roots so many 'fans' are still shocked paved the way for their artistic careers. I must admit, though, the interludes are annoying and pretentious, but once you can forgive those, you're good to go. I'd sum this collective up with the recommendation of "I Want More" -- my favourite song on tap as it has that '80s coming-of-age vibe and feels like something Stranger Things would be using. It transports you back in time, which I guess is the bubble Ceremony has been living in the last couple of years. The album's pretty good -- especially as Relapse loves letting bands do this shoegazey wandering and overall 'finding yourself' schtick -- but with something so deep and filled with portraits of different eras and mentors, it's going to take some time to really say just how good, especially compared to an already profound discography.