Produced by Paul Epworth, Ceremonials follows Florence Welch's double-platinum debut, Lungs, and was recorded with her full band over five weeks in the English summer at Abbey Road's legendary Studio 3.
The most striking thing about Ceremonials is that, in feeling like a natural progression from the eclectic first long-player, it is also clearly more cohesive and is massive in its ambition. After opener, Only If For A Night, combines harps, big beats and layered synths with her deliciously gothic lyrics, second song, Shake It Out – which has been getting heavy radio-play – sees Welch let loose her epic vocal. The classic Florence & The Machine quiet verse/abso-bloody-lutely massive chorus dynamic is something that, just like on Lungs, is evident throughout Ceremonials. Indeed, the gospel of Lover to Lover demonstrates Welch's trademark howl at its most lung-busting and is perhaps the best example of why the singer has described this album as her “incorrigible maximalism.”
This is a huge-sounding record. Even when things are moderately pared back, it is only a matter of time before they build into something much bigger. The piano-led opening of Never Let Me Go, for example, soon makes way for an unabashed power-ballad and is perhaps the song that is most reminiscent of her first album. Meanwhile, No Light, No Light sees Florence and her machine throw everything, including some In The Air Tonight-style drums, at the listener.
Taking the best elements of her debut and striding forward, this is a very strong sophomore record indeed. The expansive art-pop of Ceremonials exudes impressive confidence from a woman on top of her game, while retaining enough of a dark edge to keep it interesting.
Review by Bobby Townsend. It first appeared in Sydney's Drum Media.