The L-Shaped Man
Reviewed by: Matt Kelchner
Album after album, west coast group Ceremony have pushed their sound into uncharted territories. Being brought up in the hardcore scene, the band’s reputation grew with each record. Ceremony’s evolution can be traced as far back as their transition from powerviolence to hardcore. In 2012 they released Zoo, their first on Matador Records. The collection of songs showed a band beginning to sonically move away from their pasts and into a more melodic punk sound. In their latest release, The L-Shaped Man, Ceremony continues down this new path by featuring perhaps their most drastic change yet.
Right from the get go, listeners are hit with a brand new sound. “Hibernation”, the album’s first track, pairs a lone, subtle piano with a mumbling Ross Farrar as the singer seemingly drifts away. Instead of tearing everything down with blast beats or breakdowns, this introduction sets the tone for the next 35 minutes. Deep, dark, heavy post-punk led by a brooding Farrar.
Heartbreak from a long romantic relationship fizzling out and ending fuel much of Farrer’s lyrics. As “baby, say that it’s over” bellow out at towards the end the record’s final song, “The Understanding”, you just want to put your arm around Farrer and tell the guy things are going to be okay. The full fledged swan dive into this new singing style only amplifies the emotion behind each song.
Past are not forgotten on “Root of the World” as Ceremony cycle back towards earlier iterations. The slow burning punk burner develops a sense that it will break out at any given second only to led into the wiry, angular guitar work that kicks off “The Party”. It’s a brief look back in an album that jumps so far forward.
For older fans, The L-Shaped Man, might take a few listens. It may even alienate some, leaving them yearning for older sounds. For newer fans, the shift may not be as drastic. It’s becoming more common for punk and hardcore bands to shed their skin and take on new looks. But for Ceremony, it feels almost natural. For a group who shares the same name as one of Joy Division’s final songs, they create one of the most well written influences. All released on the day after the 35th mark of Ian Curtis taking his own life too.