Grandiose is not typically a word chosen to describe an artist’s second album but, then again, Florence + the Machine is not a typical band. After their debut album, Lungs, went Platinum in the UK and Gold in the US, singer Florence Welch found herself on a meteoric rise to fame while becoming an icon of both beauty and eccentricity. Released yesterday on Halloween,Ceremonial stakes the darkness of the holiday and transforms it into a stunning twelve-track masterpiece which proves that grandiose is the perfect word to choose.
Ceremonials hits the ground running, with opening track “Only If For A Night,” sounding as though Welch was in the middle of a conversation with her listener. She embarks on a discourse of love, death, ghosts, religion, and sin without hardly ever stopping to catch a breath. The album builds from start to finish, guiding taking us on a musical pilgrimage with stampeding drums and choruses which sound suited for cathedral hymns.
On an album as bombastic as this, it’s easy to overlook the moments of peace that appear on tracks like lead single “What the Water Gave Me,” and “Never Let Me Go.” And while this could be considered a weakness, it’s exactly what makes these songs stand out. Captured within the calm is proof of Welch’s brilliant lyricism, which in turn pulls on the heartstrings of the listener. From heartbreaking way in which she says “I’m not giving up, I’m just giving in” to the haunting cartwheels her voice turns in the slow chill of “Seven Devils,” Flo exhibits how a little restraint can go a long way.
Perhaps, then, the only fault of the album is that nearly all of the songs follow a similar pattern to each other: a slow build to an explosive mid-section which trips over the five minute mark before giving way to a gospel-likefinish. But that is not to say the songs lack dynamic range – that is hardly the case. Where Welch used Lungs to prove she could belt and she now usesCeremonialsto prove that she has exceptional awareness of the lyrics she’s singing. In “All This And Heaven Too,” Welch sings with gasps and whispers, staccato accentuations on words like “tip-toes” and gradual crescendoes from mezzo-piano to forte that carry the listener on a journey that feels akin to falling in love.
As someone who thought Welch’s vocal prowess was somewhat stifled on Lungs, and her quality improved during live shows, I feel as though she has brought elements of her stage performance her follow up.Ceremonialscontains a different Florence, one whose voice resonates with the clarity and freedom of a mature artist. Bewitching, ethereal and, yes, grandiose,Ceremonialsfinds Welch experimenting with her creativity and proving that while she is at the top of her game, she has only just begun.