Rodney Branigan: Muddy Jesus

When first reading of the unique guitar style of Rodney Branigan, and especially his ability to play two guitars at the same time or guitar and piano simultaneously, one has to wonder how much is show and gimmick. Upon listening to his new single Muddy Jesus though you just know there is an abundance of imaginative substance to his songwriting and play, the song an absorbing and inviting piece of musical storytelling to dispel any of those rogue thoughts.

Raised in Texas and now based in London, Branigan since making his debut at Hampton Court Palace in 2007 has shared stages with the likes of Billy Bragg and Jethro Tull, toured with double award winning Show of Hands, and collaborating with Seth Lakeman and Steve Knightley at Glastonbury, to name a few of his highlights. Alongside his music Branigan also spends time and focus on encouraging young people through his part of the Access to Music ‘Band Factory’ team, a project encouraging children to learn directly from the professionals themselves and discover ‘how to be in a band’. His distinct musicianship and skill as well as impressively crafted songs though, has continually drawn growing attention and strong acclaim his way which the new single can only increase.

Muddy Jesus starts with a pulsating bass sound and simple inciteful beats, both aspects resonating within the senses immediately, waking them up fully for the following excellent voice of Branigan. Expressive and openly inviting, his tones bring a flavour and emotive edge to the strong lyrical content, the words easily evoking thoughts and imagery. His guitar play like his vocals, drifts through the ear with firmness and instant engagement, and all these stirring warm steely elements together just makes for a song as a whole a grooved treat to savour. It is a blues/folk delight which with its acoustic atmosphere and warm breath one can only invite deeply inside.

Taken from his forthcoming album, Muddy Jesus is a delicious piece of provocative and finely imagined rock n roll which perfectly shows why Rodney Branigan has become the growing whisper on the lips of so many.

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RingMaster 15/09/2012

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Blood Ceremony – Blood Ceremony

There has been plenty of re-issues of debuts and albums from bands finding  a resurgence in popularity or simply the re-release of recordings that originally had a limited presence and were lost and out of circulation for many years. A varied collective in sound and quality they have been too but even the best of them will find it hard to match the essential quality and vibrancy of the latest from Metal Blade Records / Rise Above Records in the shape of the self titled debut from the Canadian folk/heavy rock band Blood Ceremony. The release is a gem that pulsates and bewitches with a startling array of elements that sees them as part homage to their influences and distinctly unique in the current metal/rock world.

Originally released in 2008 Blood Ceremony is a wonderfully colourful blend of psychedelic/folk/doom and stoner rock punched through with the audacity and attitude of heavy metal. There is so much going on that it is a mesmeric and beguiling release that is mischievous and also deceiving at the same time. The nine tracks within this psychedelia influenced doom rock beast offer up numerous recognisable elements and sound, riffs and melodies that you may think it is just a band wearing their influences openly on their sleeve, which in many ways they are, but without anything more. A focused listen though and you soon realise there has been and is no one fusing these things into their own unique sound like Blood Ceremony, and whether their sounds take a hold of you or not you will not have heard anyone exactly like them.

How to describe them is not a swift thing to do, imagine a bubbling cauldron of the likes of Electric Wizard, Black Widow and Pentagram spiced up with the psychedelic sounds and freedom of The Doors, the downtuned heaviness of Black Tusk, the meaty riffage of Black Sabbath, and the folk inspiration of a Jethro Tull or a Horslips without the Celtic sound, and you are in the vicinity of what Blood Ceremony weave together. With songs inspired by the heart and soul of witchcraft movies, the occult and magick, and Satanism, the quartet from Toronto conjure up fascinating and unavoidable imagery and emotions with their stirring songs and imaginative themes. As the album plays you can just see them playing to a back drop of a modern day Wicker Man ceremony or numerous covens and satanic festivals, their sounds uniting pagan and witchcraft inspired intent.

Formed in 2006 Blood Ceremony carry a heavy 60’s/70’s rock sound borne of sterner modern intensity and as their second album Living With The Ancients of 2011 confirmed it is a sound that whatever your preference in rock music one will find plenty to feast upon. From the opening concussive intro to opening track ‘Master Of Confusion’ on the debut, the band swoop upon and gather up the senses taking them on a part theatrical and wholly absorbent experience. That is one thing about the album, it has a showman feel in a way, the dark themes and sinister tales lacking venom and fear, but offer up glorious fun. The track provokes the ear with belligerent riffs and attitude as it winds its way through the ear to menace and tease the senses, especially from the lovely grumpy bass and expressive keys.

The album is perfectly varied, from the heavy opener ‘I’m Coming with You’ muscles in with a well crafted blend of militant riffs, throbbing energy, and Lucifer spawned pan pipe like flute from vocalist Alia O’Brien. This is the harshest of the tracks keeping a deliberate muscle throughout despite the wicked ‘pipes’ that whip around the bulky energy. Guitarist Sean Kennedy and bassist Lucas Gadke give real heavy fibrous intent to the sound on the album perfectly supported by drummer Andrew Haust, all allowing O’Brien to light up torches of exquisite melodies and add incisive breaks to the weighty atmospheres.

The album is impressive from start to the last devilish wink of its closing note, with tracks like the shadowed ‘Into The Coven’ , the spirit raising necromantic celebration of ‘The Rare Lord’, and ‘Hop Toad’ with its insatiable preying riff and siren like melodic beckoning, rifling through and engaging the senses completely. If you have not found Blood Ceremony yet then here is your chance to jump in at the beginning, time to immerse into their earthy dark world with more burning flames than you could wish for.

RingMaster 30/01/2012

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