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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 2019 | Relapse Records

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Six albums and over a decade in, California quintet Ceremony made jarring change the only constant in their ever-shifting approach. They began in the mid-2000s as a seethingly violent hardcore band, complete with screamed vocals, blastbeats, and 30-second songs. By the next decade, Ceremony's power violence beginnings were largely unrecognizable from the Wire-modeled post-punk of 2011's Zoo and the Factory Records-steeped goth rock of 2015's The L-Shaped Man. Four years later, sixth album In the Spirit World Now finds Ceremony reinventing their sound yet again, with ambitious arrangements and dense upbeat rock songs that lean more towards synths and sleaze than anything the band has done before. Dance-forward tunes like "Further I Was" and "Years of Love" prominently feature interplay between synth and guitar, with ferocious vocal shouts and a swaggering essence that make the band sound like Spoon covering Tubeway Army. When this approach works, it can be fantastic, as on the Chelsea Wolfe-aided title track or the moody "I Want More." When this style doesn't quite land, the band recalls the electroclash trend of the early 2000s. They achieve their best results when they split the difference between new wave synth pop and the darkly drawn post-punk they explored on their last few albums. "From Another Age" is the best example of this, as it taps into shadowy goth punk guitar lines and tormented vocals while building on a liquid synth pattern. Ceremony's arrival at In the Spirit World Now follows a similar trajectory as contemporaries Iceage, who morphed from their jagged punk roots into something more refined and musically rich by the time of their 2018 album Beyondless. Ceremony's vision is less inspired if more produced. They fare better as a dancey new wave party band than they did emulating Joy Division on their album before this, but for all its energy and drive, Spirit World is light on truly striking songs. ~ Fred Thomas
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 18, 2015 | Matador

A brooding, post-punk affair full of dark-hued melodies and austere arrangements, L-Shaped Man is the fifth LP by Bay Area group Ceremony. Their initially firm stance as deliverers of classic American hardcore punk began to soften around the time they signed with veteran indie Matador Records to release 2012's Zoo. While still laced with punk ethos and attitude, Zoo felt like a turning point for the band as their tempos slowed down a bit and their songs became more tuneful, having more in common with L.A. skate rock than aggro hardcore. L-Shaped Man cements their transformation from hardcore heroes to something else entirely with a newfound focus on careful song structure and atmospheric production. The dour, reverberating sounds of Joy Division immediately come to mind as Ceremony switch from the thrashing full-guitar chords of their earlier work to punctuated, single-string leads, leaving plenty of sonic space for frontman Ross Farrar's vocals, which are far more present and commanding than ever before. Introduced by a rather gloomy piano number called "Hibernation," L-Shaped Man hits its stride on tracks like the lead single "Your Life in France," which is followed smartly by the thundering dirge "Your Life in America." With its big harmonic chorus and strong guitar hooks, "The Separation" is a high point on an album that embraces and thrives in its own heartbreak. Whether or not they're borrowing too heavily from the Ian Curtis handbook (the band's name is taken from a Joy Division song), Ceremony have a strong handle on this style, and after nearly a decade together, these new clothes fit them quite well. ~ Timothy Monger
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Zoo

Alternative & Indie - Released March 5, 2012 | Matador

With Matador Records diversifying their roster in the late 2000s to include hardcore acts such as Fucked Up, Ceremony switched from Bridge Nine Records (home to Agnostic Front and New Found Glory) over to Belle and Sebastian's label for 2012's Zoo. The Bay Area punk group's sound has undergone some big changes since their first album in 2006. Instead of specializing in complex, frenetic outbursts, Zoo hones in on the straight-ahead, overdriven crunch of classic punk. Easily mistakable for a trio due to their tight symmetry and bare-boned approach, the five-piece barely breaks midtempo, and appropriately, Ross Farrar's vocal approach is dialed back from a screech to a tuneful shout. Everything continues to feel heavy, though, and the abrupt stutter-stops of "World Blue," and the ripping one-two-three power chord punch of "Citizen" keep the band cemented in punk power and show that they can be unpredictable, even when they're reeling it in. Even in the album's breathing points -- the raw ballads "Video" and "Hotel" -- Ceremony still sound like the most aggressive, confrontational group to show up on Matador's roster. ~ Jason Lymangrover
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Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Safranin Sound

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 26, 2019 | Relapse Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 6, 2019 | Relapse Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 17, 2019 | Relapse Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | BRIDGE 9 RECORDS (B9R)

A band that lists Joy Division, Suicidal Tendencies, Pink Floyd, and Tom Waits as its chief influences is not something you come across very often. But there's a first for everything -- welcome to the wild and unpredictable world of Ceremony. On their 2008 release, Still, Nothing Moves You, the Bay Area-based group mixes all these aforementioned varied influences into a blender and comes up with a hard-hitting style that is quite comparable to the freak-out cacophony of bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan. The whole album is one non-stop bludgeoning of sonic fury; pick any selected cut ("He -- God -- Has Favored Our Undertakings" is a particularly pleasant little ditty, sporting the jolly old lyric "I won't be skullfucked by faith!"), hit play, and simply run for cover. As heard throughout Still, Nothing Moves You, Ceremony are all about unpredictability and the sonic crush. ~ Greg Prato
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Rock - Released September 3, 2017 | Low Light

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Rock - Released June 8, 2010 | BRIDGE 9 RECORDS

4 stars out of 5 -- "[B]lazing tracks like 'The Pathos' will inevitably catalyze plenty of frenzied circle pits..."
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2008 | Attack Records

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Progressive Rock - Released April 2, 2009 | Arbor Records Ltd.

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Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | BRIDGE 9 RECORDS (B9R)

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Pop - Released December 17, 2013 | Moon Sounds

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Electronic/Dance - Released June 6, 2006 | Malfunction

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Safranin Sound

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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | BRIDGE 9 RECORDS (B9R)