It’s clear to me that vest metal is more a way of life than a fashion accessory. For those of you into “the life,” you’ll likely appreciate more of that ever-essential vestment metal that 2012 has been spawning with such regularity. Seremonia hails from Finland and on their debut, they’re selling a fairly catchy amalgam of 60s psychedelic rock and stoner/doom metal. As a point of comparison, their particular sound drops them into the flowery meadows between co-vesters Castle and Occultation with a hefty dose of Ghost tossed in for spooks and giggles. Naturally, there are the expected nods to Sabbath and Pentagram, but also a raft of influences from Deep Purple, Jefferson Airplane and Cream. Like Castle and Occultation, they employ female vocals and just like Occultation, they force everything through a filter of thick, unrelenting reverb and echo. Add in some Jethro Tull-worthy flute segments, old timey synth effects and lyrics entirely in Finnish, and it creates a weird, otherworldly vibe (especially for those with English-only ears like Steel Druhm). While there are some amusingly old school ditties here, this eponymous opus has a slightly undercooked, inconsistent, and at times crude feel to it that keeps the style from attaining full realization. That’s a pity because I enjoy the basics of what they’re trying to do and there’s clearly potential here for something better.
This is not complex, progressive-minded stuff and opening rocker “Urijuhla” is as straight forward as it gets. It’s all about simple, fuzzed-out riffs, rumbling, Geezer Butler style bass and the haunting, ominous chants of Noora Federley. It strives for the same rudimentary, rocking charm and ethereal atmosphere that Ghost had on their debut and at times they come close. If nothing else, it certainly sounds like it was ripped right from 1967. More of the same comes with “Rock ‘n Rollin Maailma,” which co-opts the riff from “Smoke on the Water” along with the overall Deep Purple archetype. “Huutava Taivas, Kuiskaava Maa” sees Noora stretch her chords a bit for moments of borderline angelic, enchanting singing amid mid-tempo, sludgy riffing and it works nicely.
Things get way more interesting when Seremonia tries to throw everything at you all at once. “Aamuruskon Kaupunki” includes weird synth effects, spacey noodling and feedback which combine to give it the feel of a super groovy 60s acid trip. From 2:55 onward, things basically go loony and descend into a long, wacko jam with lots of laser effects from the 60s/70s. It’s pretty fun, but also a bit of a hot mess (that’s New York speak for sloppy). Also catching my ear was the eerie, child-like and Ghost-like chorus of “Antikristus 666,” which you may find yourself compulsively singing in Finnish as broken and bruised as mine; and the flute-laden, vaguely goth vibe of “Hautakiven Varjossa” (especially compelling is the sudden lurch into hippie commune tranquility at 2:32).
Although they try to change-up the pacing with the fast, punky, Dead Kennedys style of “Kosminen Rummisvaunu,” it’s a trade-off between energy and clumsiness that ultimately falls flat for me (especially the vocal patterns). Elsewhere, the super-simple, monotone, ritualistic chants in “Lusiferin Kaarmeet” sound cool at first but start to wear thin quickly.
The core of the sound is the basic, stoner rock riffing from Erno Taipale and Ville Pirinen. While they capture the feel of the olden days adequately and manage a bunch of groovy leads, nothing floored me or made me jump for replays like the Ghost material did. While the flutes are fun whenever they pop up and the wacky synth work is charming, they can’t always turn the simple songs into something extra memorable. Noora’s vocals end up a mixed bag of cats, swinging from charming to annoying as the album unspools. On most of the material, she sounds fine, but by the end of the disc, you may find yourself feeling she’s too limited in what she does (or can do).
While there’s something to be said for the mysterious, arcane vibe imparted by the mega-reverb and Noora’s incantation style chants, the mix ends up becoming too muddy, sludgy, cavernous and hollow. By the half way point, it started feeling tedious in the same way the Occultation album did (though the songs here are generally better). Surprisingly, although the guitars are fuzzed all to hell and bit buried in the murk, they have a decent amount of power and punch which helps keep things heavy.
I see some things in Seremonia that I like and think they have the beginnings of a compelling sound. It needs some tweaking, maturation and less slavish adherence to the reverb thing, but it’s there. If you loved the Ghost debut, or the stuff by Castle or the Occulatation, this may be worth a listen. I’m hoping next time they expand the sound a bit and flesh out those aspects that show some promise. Then, the vest might fit Steel Druhm with less chaffing.