Words: Elaine Buckley
When Florence Welch announced herself in 2009 with debut album Lungs, she probably didn't realise the true impact the album would have. Besides the endless critical acclaim and bountiful commercial success, the album captured the hearts and minds of the masses and catapulted Florence to almost instant stardom. Lungs established her as a force to be reckoned with, and took her around the world as she captivated capacity crowds with the tuneful delights that the album held. So now comes the time for Florence to unleash the much-anticipated follow-up - no pressure, then!
Admittedly, upon first listen Ceremonials doesn't seem to live up to the standard set by its predecessor as one might expect. However, give it time, and repeat listens will reveal a body of work which is epic in sound and rich in emotional depth. Its narrative may be dark, but the songs are dynamically layered and the arrangements majestic - returning producer Paul Epworth sticking to the tried and tested formula he created on Lungs. The album gets off to a suitably grandiose start with 'Only If For A Night', a barrage of choristers and strings heightening the drama throughout. 'What The Water Gave Me' - which impressed as an advance singe - commands attention in a similar manner, as do the slower-paced beautiful refrains of 'Never Let Me Go'. The jovial piano intro to 'Breaking Down' signals a brief respite from the intensity, before the sinister tones of the somewhat eerie 'Seven Devils' ring out. The trademark tribal drums and emphatic melody of 'Heartlines' make it a sure-fire hit, but it's all-conquering single 'Shake It Out' which is the standout track - a confessional anthem which will no doubt become a major focal point of live shows when Florence takes Ceremonials on tour. Throughout it all Florence's ever-distinctive voice is in stunning form, the gradual rise and fall from the depths to the dizzying heights of her range continually mesmerising.
Shattering the notion of 'the difficult second album', Ceremonials can only further elevate Florence Welch towards super-stardom. In a heavily populated field of talented female solo artists, she continues to separate herself from her peers by carving a niche with her cutting-edge unique sound. Ceremonials is bigger, bolder and better than before - Florence is back, and with a most magnificent bang.