[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”center”]Album Review[/pullquote3]
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Although March is supposedly “Metal Month” (as determined by our marketing overlords), the best record released this past month has to be Ceremony’s Zoo, a neo-post-punk trip challenging the boundaries of hardcore and the limits of Ceremony’s own creativity. Released on March 6, the most exciting thing about Zoo is the controversy it’s created among Ceremony fans.
Loving or hating this record is like being a Union or Confederate, or, more metaphorically apt, like being a Tory or a Patriot in the American Revolutionary War; in this case, the Ceremony loyalists (who I believe are not truly loyal at all) think they are the “true” Ceremony fans, loyal to the band’s more hardcore roots. On the other hand, the “patriots” think Ceremony has reached a logical (and decent sounding) point in its progression as a band, no matter how disparate the material may be from their demo.
Most would say Ceremony began tearing up its hardcore roots as soon as it signed to Matador, a label traditionally (and some would say, notoriously) associated with more indie acts; the last hardcore band Matador signed, Fucked Up, drew further away (much like Ceremony) from its original sound as well, making them more or less palatable to larger audiences——garnering Matador the unwritten motto, “where hardcore goes to die.”
The inherent snobbery in this statement makes me like Zoo even more; if you piss someone off, you know you’re doing something right, and if you piss off almost your entire fan-base, good on you. Such alienation proves Ceremony’s personal investment: they knew they were taking a risk with this album, and they just didn’t care. It’s for them.
On the music side of things, unlike their earlier material, Zoo is more mid-tempo, more overtly melodic, and while straight- forward (check out the anthemic “Hysteria”), it still leaves room to breathe; if the band’s debut Violence Violence was an atomic bomb, then Zoo is a disarmament treaty.
And I can’t say that’s a bad thing. If anything, it will give Ceremony a wider audience, all while retaining its creativity.
All in all, the record sounds huge: reverb-laden, yet stripped of extraneous experimentation, with an entrancing straight-forward rhythm section that borders on mind-numbing (I mean that in a good way; involuntarily, your head will bob hypnotically).
The vocals, unlike his previous yell, sit slightly behind the music in a lackadaisical higher-register Ian Curtis croon. Yet among these almost cliché post-punk tropes are twinges of early-’80s California punk parts, almost surf-like.
A logical progression from their last album, Rohnert Park, Zoo delves deeper into Ceremony’s own creative wants and further from genre strictures. And whether they lose or gain fans, play to hardcore crowds or indie crowds, Zoo is and will remain a positive mark on their career’s report card.