After being somewhat spoiled with three support acts the previous night at Skid Row in Manchester, it’s a bump back down to a single support for this evening’s fare, with Canada’s Blood Ceremony touring in support of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats at Birmingham’s O2 Institute. The room is not quite sold out, though very busy, with the intimate feel of the venue lending itself to a really good atmosphere. After a far too early arrival, allowing unneeded extra time for snow, it was time for some doom and gloom in my ears to warm me from the cold.
An Occult/Witch Rock act as support sounds like a damn good idea to me and Blood Ceremony launch straight into one of their rockier tracks to entice us into their audio web, though a keyboard issue strikes frontwoman Alia during it, leading to a short pause before the second track, which lends itself to a more alt-Folk bearing, quite reminiscent of an updated and rockier version of Jethro Tull – hardly a bad thing in my eyes! ‘Drawing Down The Moon’ follows shortly after, lending itself to yet another arrow from Blood Ceremony’s musical quiver, sounding closer to a more Deep Purple/Black Sabbath crossover.
The contrast of the Stoner or Doom sound against soft female vocals provides such a strangely satisfying noise, and Blood Ceremony have their own twist to this, with Alia’s vocals being more orientated towards a rockier sound and the music not quite so heavy – a change that bears out very well. They have time to include their yet to be released new single ‘Lolly Willows’ midway through the set, which picks up a good level of applause as the audience decides they do quite like them, myself in full agreement. Musically, they are impressive on their respective instruments, with drummer Michael showing some very Bill Ward like fills and Sean and Lucas on guitar and bass respectively combining extremely well on some quite well worked time signature changes during tracks. Their acclaim during and post set is well deserved from the busy room.
As headline acts go, you can find much worse around than Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, as they have shown time and time again. Melancholic, fuzzed out Rock feels quite at home in the land of Deep Purple, Witchfinder General and Black Sabbath, amongst many others and man, do those Cambridge guys know how to write such songs. With the live performance enhanced with backing visuals on a projector screen behind the band, their wall of noise is primed for aural assault, with as many heads banging alongside my own as there are people in the room.
For a band I first caught in this same city five and a bit years ago supporting Black Sabbath on their 13 tour, I’ve seen them on a couple of occasions since headlining and they have torn the stage apart. Tonight, they show that their star is still very much on the rise.
They’re all talented musicians, I’m already aware of this – my main consideration is how much they have stepped up their live game, from an already ear-pleasing, if somewhat standoffish, act. They are tight as hell and as well-oiled a machine as I have seen them be, buoyed, perhaps, by the release of latest album Wasteland (Rise Above).
The guitar solos have been reworked, involving more intricate playing on some tracks than when they were first recorded, showing some depth of thought to already be making those decisions to remap songs for their live shows as their own talent and confidence increases. As we reach the midpoint of the set, we are already forty-five minutes in and only on our eighth song, though it feels like this time has barely even passed, given the sheer technical ability and song writing quality of the band.
We have already had such favourites as ‘Death’s Door’ – their first song that caught my ear five and a bit years ago, ‘Mind Crawlers’ and ‘I See Through You’ as our set opener. More fuzzed out delights were still to come our way, though, as ‘I’ll Cut You Down’ and ‘13 Candles’ were still to come in the main set alone, alongside some newer tracks – they are touring in support of an album, after all!
A two song encore awaits us in the form of ‘Melody Lane’ and finally ‘No Return’ from Wasteland as our set closer. The crowd are loud and proud to show their appreciation of two excellent sets served up to us this evening with such precise down-tuned melody. Vocal harmonies and walls of fuzzy noise are a highly productive way of writing songs. Pass it on!