By Saidif Mejia
Ceremony wasn’t always a band known for their promising use of synthesizers and drum-machines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their past is something to look down upon. Honestly, their evolution from their early starts as a fairly underground hardcore band from Rohnert Park, California, to an up and coming post-punk revival group whose sound evokes connections to older bands like Devo and The Killing Joke is nothing short of astonishing.
The bands that can truly stand the test of time and continue to grow their fan base are the ones that always push past the musical foundation from which they began. Ceremony definitely carries itself as one of those groups in their newest 2019 album, In the Spirit World Now. In this case, Ceremony went from being inspired by classic bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag to being on a similar level of modern groups like B Boys or Shame.
The album’s opening track “Turn Away the Bad Thing” sounds like it could act as the introductory song to 1980s action movies involving angry punk rockers or a racing film featuring fast cars driven by teenagers on the beachside. This initial image manifests throughout most of the album, as the instrumentals contain quick beats on the drums and drum machines, mathy chords from the keyboards, mildly-aggressive guitar notes and annoyed, but firm vocals.
On the track “Further I Was”, Ceremony once again captures that angsty-tone that has come to define punk and post-punk alike, in addition to songs like “Say Goodbye to Them” and “We Can Be Free.” Most of this is due to the band’s focus on utilizing vintage synthesizers and new-wave inspired guitar riffs that may seem ancient to youth now, but which people from Generation X might consider heavily nostalgic. There are even hints of proto-industrial rock in “We Can Be Free”, as the synthesizers complement the drum machines in constructing a scene reminiscent of what sounds like a band performing inside of an abandoned warehouse.
The lyrics are what one would normally expect of the post-punk genre: irritated, anxious and nervous. At the same time, however, the upbeat energy at which the words are sung with make it a more exciting experience than one would anticipate make from a post-punk band, almost as if the days of Gang of Four, XTC, Wire and countless more are back.
Combing these refreshing elements together creates a satisfying experience for anyone out there who feels that rock is dying as a genre. Ceremony is here to not only revive it, but also expand it and maybe even cross into other subgenres as they have continuously succeeded in doing for their 14-year history. At the pace they’re currently going, they will only have more to offer in terms of hopefulness for the indie rock genre.