Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials (Island)

You might want to brace yourself before listening to the second album from Florence Welch and her Machine. Together with producer Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Friendly Fires) they create some of the most bombastic music this side of Meat Loaf on Ceremonials.

Florence’s debut disc, 2009’s Lungs, was strong enough to establish the London-based songstress as a force to be reckoned with. Her constant touring helped keep her in the spotlight over the following two years. Now comes her sophomore effort.

Ceremonials starts with Only If For A Night. The track fades up with a giggle, some shimmering harp and then a huge drum sound as Florence belts out, “I did cartwheels in your honour”. Dramatic piano chords drive the track…it’s bold, it’s strident, it sounds like Sinead O’Connor times 1000.

The album’s first single, Shake It Out follows. A church-like organ starts and then those mega-drums kick in again. No problem though, Florence sounds like she’s determined to prove that she can sing over any amount of noise her band can dish out.

There’s more bombastic chest-beating vocalizing on What The Water Gave Me, and pretty much every track that follows. Lyrically, when you can make the words out over the bombast and the echo, Florence’s words border on the cliché with lines like “It’s always darkest before the storm”, although she does come up with some beautiful imagery on Never Let Me Go.

But the music is so overwhelming and Florence’s vocals are so over-the-top that these tracks make Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound more akin to a mere bump in the road. The result is that the listener feels like they’ve been shouted at for almost an hour.

This approach to production may be impressive live, but for casual listening, it may leave you exhausted.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to What The Water Gave Me from Ceremonials