Ceremonials occupies an interesting middle ground between a musical reinterpretation of The Lord of the Rings, and a performance by a one-woman church choir. Indeed, the excellent production on the album, combined with Florence Welch's soulful and powerful voice creates a very immersive atmosphere not unlike that of a full choir performance. On top of that, Florence and the Machine's formidable songwriting ability gives every song a fantastical feel; like a musical trip to Middle Earth or Neverland. The prominent usage of harps, keyboards, and a stellar percussion section creates no shortage of grandeur.
Nowhere is this grandeur better demonstrated than on the track "What the Water Gave Me." The piece starts off with dark, melodic vocals supported by a chiming harp. The musical atmosphere then slowly builds, gradually adding an electric organ, heavier percussion, Florence's signature "choral" backing vocals, and a bed of electric guitar, until the track boils over into two minutes of pure excitement. The way the track builds and releases is beautifully orchestrated, easily making it the best song on Ceremonials.
As well-crafted as most of the album is, the level of variety on the album is not necessarily the greatest. Most tracks on Ceremonials feel like different musical interpretations of the word "grand" (although this is not exactly a bad thing). The one change of pace comes with the track "Breaking Down". The reverberating vocals, backed up by piano and strings give the track an almost psychedelic feel. Needless to say, this was a surprising change of style for Florence and the Machine.
All in all, there is very little that I could find wrong with the album. Perhaps one could argue that the high "baroque" style of many of the songs made the album a bit pretentious, but even that would be a stretch. Obviously, not everyone will enjoy Florence's style and what it has to offer. However, this group is quite small, and for the rest of us, Ceremonials is a noteworthy celebration of musical grandeur in its highest form.
My Rating: 9/10
Favorite Tracks: "What the Water Gave Me", "No Light, No Light", "Lover to Lover"