How to Celebrate Halloween like Blood Ceremony
Do you believe in monsters? If not, how do you stay so comfortable lying to yourself?
There’s plenty of creepy music for this spooky season. You got your "Thriller", your Carpenter scores, your "Nature Trail to Hell". But a lot of people get to listen to music as if every day is Halloween. The occult, evil and dark cross over into the world of metal so near-constantly that it’s like Samhain will never really ends. One of Canada’s best eerie royalty, for this ongoing state of fright, is Blood Ceremony.
Three albums in, their latest The Eldritch Dark, Blood Ceremony makes music to summon demons to. They sing, often, about evil, spells, magics, and Alia O'Brien’s glooming voice and sprightful flute portions make each song an incantation. They have also toured with some of the heaviest in the biz, hitting the road with Electric Wizard, Ghost, and more recently, Kylesa. Appropriately, so so appropriately, they are playing a show with heavy metal lords Pentagram in Burlington, Vermont this week. On Friday. On Halloween! We caught up with Alia and Lucas Gadke to talk about the big creepy event, and how Blood Ceremony usually spends that great scariest day of the year. And candy.
Noisey: It’s gotten so hard to keep track of all the big bands you’ve toured with. Have you played with Pentagram before?
Alia O'Brien: Sort of, this is the first time it will be the same stage. We did play the same festival as them, Roadburn in 2011, but they played a different stage right after us. We packed up our gear quickly to catch them, I think I still had my flute in my hand. This was the first time we’re sharing the bill with them, so that’s pretty cool.
Plus it’s a very special day.
Alia O'Brien: Exactly, Halloween. It’s a one-two punch.
Lucas Gadke: Yeah, we’re going to play in Burlington, Vermont, which is apparently the home of ice cream magnate Ben & Jerry’s. At least there’s a bit of ‘scream’ in there to help it out.
That’s a good place for a ghost. Prime Scooby-Doo shit, haunted ice cream factory. Have you planned anything special for Halloween?
Gadke: I think it’s going to be more tis’ the season stuff. It’s a college town, so I imagine a lot of people will be revelling in costume, I mean I can only hope.
O'Brien: We’ve talked about it. We’re not planning any crazy covers, but we’re going to modify our stage aesthetic ever so slightly in the spirit of all Pagan festivities.
Any plans to trick or treat with Pentagram?
O'Brien: Haha, we’ll see. We haven’t been in direct communication with them, but I think a joint Blood Ceremony / Pentagram trick r’ treating session would be highly productive. I feel like we could score a lot of candy.
Gadke: I think that it’s expected. We might have to go before, y’know, people tend to go to bed. American candy’s great.
Fuck yeah, they have cookie dough Pop Tarts over there.
Gadke: They do?!
Yeah, there’s like an ice cream sundae one too.
They don’t mess around about eating poorly. Are you generally a Halloween person? What do your Halloweens usually look like?
O'Brien: Yeah! I don’t dress up every year, we played one metal festival in Toronto around Halloween. I dressed up, I think it was my favourite costume. I dressed as Arthur Brown, God of Hellfire era, I had the headpiece and the makeup, a robe. It was a very satisfying experience.
Gadke: Unfortunately, for the last few years, I’ve been out of the country for most Halloweens. I’ve either been in Chicago recording, or in Europe where Halloween isn’t really a thing. That’s been kind of a bummer. When I was a kid growing up, my dad was nuts on Halloween, and it’s therefore my favourite holiday. He would do these massive setups in front of our yard. One year he did this Area 51 thing, set up a whole biohazard tent, got a bunch of medical equipment and had two dead aliens laid out with compost as their innards. Him and my brother were dressed in lab coats scaring kids.
That’s a shame Europe isn’t into Halloween, seems like they’d really rule that. Have you encountered anything spooky touring anyway?
O'Brien: When we were touring in the States with Kylesa, there was one day in New Orleans where Sean (Kennedy) and I went on haunted tour with the ‘witchy woman.’ Basically the lesson that I took away from that experience was that Nicholas Cage seems to have purchased a lot of the haunted houses in that city. He’s a sort of proprietor of haunted buildings. It’s cool to learn about the architecture too.
Gadke: Oh, there’s a church in Hannover that has a giant upside-down pentagram in raw iron over the steeple. We were there with Ghost on a day off, and we all flipped out.
Alia- Yeah, we were walking along, and the fifth point was facing downward. No one in the town seemed to want to talk about it.
Gadke: This was not near Halloween, but it so could have been. If you’ve ever been to Hannover, it’s a squeaky clean place. It was getting to nightfall, there was no one around. We went to this one bar still open, there were two women serving. Sean asked the lady pouring our beers, “Hey, could you tell me what the deal with that pentagram on the church is?” And she knocked the beer over, yelped “I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING” and went into the back room. It was amazing!
Christ, did Vincent Price walk into the room and say “I couldn’t help but hear you were interested in the church.” You guys draw a lot of your style from those vintage, Hammer horror films. I know Sean Kennedy’s a big buff of those things.
O'Brien: Yeah. I think we have a lot of shared taste, maybe not horror per se but a lot of exploitation. I think one of our greatest bonding moments was going to see Cannibal Holocaust. We’re all very eager to share our film passions with one another. One film that we all agree is one of our favourites is the original Wicker Man. Whenever Halloween comes I think about that film.
How would one celebrate Halloween Blood Ceremony style?
O'Brien: Theoretically? Probably a night of, let’s say, a 12-hour marathon of Hammer films, paired with appropriate beers.
Gadke: This Halloween is seeming pretty good right now, but I’d like to go to Italy, be in a castle, handing out treats to all the strange undead people walking around. Playing a show in a castle in Italy, that’d be pretty good. There’s blood coming from somewhere. No tops allowed, not a shirt in sight.
Are you a believer in the monsters?
O'Brien: I’m undecided. I don’t like to pretend that I know anything for certain. I’ve met a lot of people that have had experiences seeing ghosts. Experiencing spirits or that sort of thing. I haven’t had any of those things, but I like the idea there’s a layer of reality beyond the immediately observable.
Short answer: yes-ish?
O'Brien: A solid maybe.
Gadke: I… yes. I don’t want to negate their identity in case they do exist.
Zack Kotzer believes in the monster known as capitalism - @ZaaackKoootzer