Entering the Underground #21: Ceremonial Bloodbath Welcomes “The Tides of Blood”
What bond could be stronger than that of friendship and comradery, spread out across decades of collaborative extreme music songwriting? The bond of blood, as it turns out; sacrifice, blood and death are some of Canadian black/death powerhouse Ceremonial Bloodbath’s strongest themes (seriously- no less than TWO demo releases with “Sacrifice” somewhere in the release title!) and unlike some of the weak vampyric instagram black metal out there angling somewhere similar aesthetically, these mad Canucks back it up with their music.
Ceremonial Bloodbath is not a celebration of light, airy things, of gentle progressivisms, or of warm and inviting melodies. This band is pummeling evil of all of the most horrid varieties, a seamless marriage of the straightforward lurching blast-riffs of Archgoat and the swirling chaos of countrymen Adversarial; though an initial listen to their debut album The Tides of Blood sounds like a frenetic wall of sound, careful attention reveals a thoughtful approach to composition that reveals a tremendous variety to the band’s aggressive music.
Though most of Ceremonial Bloodbath’s immediate sound is clearly rooted in the cacophonous side of black/death, to me their core is dynamics; there are plenty of slow parts to offset the powerful and hateful riffs, and the approach towards the larger dissonant chord shapes shows a level of experience and skill beyond what might be inferred from a passing, disinterested listen. This band is no more interested in a mindless rehash of well-trodden ground than they are in remaining accessible for casual fans, and for all that any individual section might seem to fall within a specific clear archetype, the overall composition separates them from the pack of superficially “similar” bands and reveals them as they are: skilled, well-versed musicians taking a dive into chaos and seeking a sanguine end.
Check out The Tides of Blood, get excited for whatever comes next, and read below for an interview with lead guitarist ABYSMAL BERZERKER and bassist THE NOCTURNAL BLACK.
It’s been a couple years now since The Tides of Blood came out, and you’re now in the process of recording a followup. How much of that time was spent writing? How old are the oldest of the new songs?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - We started writing this album soon after we finished recording The Tides of Blood. The first 2 songs are on our Mutilation of Sacrifice demo.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - Not much time seems to pass in this band before someone has new desecrations in the works. Even though everyone is busy with other bands and whatnot, the blood is pretty much constantly churning.
Is the songwriting completely collaborative then? Does anyone ever just come in with a completed song?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - The Tides of Blood was written more collaboratively. Due to the isolation over past years, this new album was written in isolation by the individual members of the band.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - Typically one person brings in the complete skeleton of a new song. Everyone beats it until form, sometimes twisting the shape or tearing it apart. Everyone shovels their dirt on it before it’s ready to exhume.
Was writing in isolation a strange experience? Had any of your previous bands ever operated that way?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - I would say collaboratively writing at band practices isn’t really the norm. Most bands I play in, a band member will bring a fully written song to practice for everyone to learn.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - Actually this is pretty much how most of my bands have operated. That said, things always mutate and get fucked with in rehearsal, and often end up very far from their original state.
A lot of the memorability of The Tides of Blood comes from a contrast between relentless, pummeling riffs and slower sections that are not always present in similar material. Is finding a good balance difficult?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - The balance is worked out in rehearsal. The result is everything must resolve into the sickening.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - I think we all have pretty similar ideas about riffing, pacing, tempos, etc. We’ve all been poisoned by a lot of the same influences for many years. I think a lot of the same musical and anti-musical ideas are shared among us subconsciously.
How calculated is the approach prior to working it out in room? Does the collective of the band choose how many songs a release will be, what sort of pacing you all want, or anything else prior to starting on writing?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - We bring new songs in and they get added to a set of new songs after being learned. The songs come together sounding more unified.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - I think the process is a bit more primitive than that. Songs accrue and we do discuss and work on how they will all fit and flow together, but it seems to mostly happen unconsciously, as the songs begin seeping into our psyches.
Is there any room for real calculation and planning? Do any of the group’s other projects take a less instinctive approach?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - It’s mostly calculated, planned and practiced. Everything is written and played the same way every time. Things are added and taken away initially but once completed the song is played the same.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - I personally find the instinctive approach more interesting, letting the unperceived currents carry and guide until they reach the foulest conclusion. As well, I’m not smart enough to do much else. I have a broken binder full of ripped up papers scrawled with base-level tablature and hateful lyrics - that’s about as clever as I get with it.
Much of Ceremonial Bloodbath have ancient history together going back decades. Would this band be doable without that familiarity between the members and the comfort of familiar songwriting buddies?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - The familiarity makes things run smoother, but more important is understanding the music being written and being on the same page in the style of playing. Without everyone's contribution nothing would get done.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - We’ve all known each other for a very long time, so when we’re locked in the rehearsal dungeon little time is wasted on shit-talking, arguing, explaining etc. We’re able to speak the same rotten language, which tends to whip the darkness into form more quickly. A common intent and morbid vision keeps us on the same hellpath.
When did the idea for this particular band first come up? What inner need does it fill that other bands weren’t?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - Ceremonial Bloodbath was started to fill our inner need to make a dark, ethereal, and violent cacophony of celestial abomination and emptiness we wanted to hear.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - I joined after original bass tormentor T.L. departed, so I can’t comment on that.
Given the nature of the band, is there room at all for a continuing evolution sonically or thematically?
ABYSMAL BERSERKER - Our approach for this new album is different from the last. Whether evolved or devolved the sound of each record will become more sonically sickening than the last. Regression into a primorial, swarming oscillation would be ideal by me.
THE NOCTURNAL BLACK - I think things will continue to develop and evolve, and I don’t expect anything to slow down in the forward momentum of this band. But I wouldn’t hold my fucking breath for operatic vocals or anything. We’ve been too deeply scarred by Fallen Angel of Doom, Oath of Black Blood, and other classic blacknesses for that to happen. There’s enough damage and insanity in this band that I only expect things to continue deeper into the abyss, for fuck’s sake.