Album Review: Ceremony – ‘The L-Shaped Man’

Everything dies. This is what makes Life splendidly yet painfully gorgeous.

Ceremony have made a clean break from what you knew them to be. A new creature is born – one cribbed in beautiful woe and broody melodies on The L-Shaped Man. Their thrashy pedigree and the thunderous, harrowing nature of their older stuff is simply dead and in these ashes, a nuanced sound rises, one rife with a quiet intensity of say, New Order and Joy Division. But in all its shoegaze and mellow Brit glory, I’d have to peg Interpol as the sound that this album sticks to the most.

The ferocity of Ceremony finds itself channeled into a darker, ambient post-punk arena where love is outgrown and emerges as a distant memory. This is the heart of the story here and it’s not a subtle tale. Tracks like “The Understanding” and “Your Life In France” remonstrate this. Soothing picky guitars and lull-worthy keys create a contemplative and crooning affair that you’d do well to disconnect from the aggression in your life. After all, this is a record for broken hearts and one to pass the time by forgetting about the steel-nerves and aggressive pastures Ross Farrar once walked. His words and emotions are an open book – brooding, volatile, hurting, frustrated, pained and chomping away at his inner-fuel. You feel his energy dissipate with each note played as he gets as personal as can be, informative and macabre. The malaise, caution exercised and dark view of Farrar’s world are breathed to life with such a succinct capability that when his reality sets in, it feels as if it’s your own.

“Can You Measure The Loss?” is a line from “The Separation” and it’s tear-inducing. Dark and depressive on a record void of any light whatsoever. That’s the effect of true love shattered. There’s no relief on The L-Shaped Man. It’s bleak and exposed but in these naked moments, every ounce of catharsis comes to life. The visceral nature of the record is invigorating and it’s a dramatic shift that you don’t want to end because you’ve put aside and cast asunder any past notions of the band as you ingest a message on loss. One we’re all susceptible to. When producer, John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt) extracts the cavernous, echoey and vulnerable feel of those old Joy Division and New Order albums, tracks like “Root of the World” dim the twilight, haze your world and bring the curtains down with soft chords and a sunset melody; all styles that musically form a cinematic blanket over your eyes. A wool that you’re afraid to lift. A veil you hope would protect you from what inevitably happens. Grappling with this pain is what makes Ceremony’s fifth full-length their most thought-provoking to date. It’s a catchy and wistful musical statement I enjoyed listening to but one that I can’t imagine they enjoyed making.

Swim in it while you can. Soak it in. After all, nothing lasts forever.

4.5 / 5

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