Fredericksburg, Va., noise rock trio Skywave broke up long before they had the chance to spread their distortion-driven tunes to a wide audience. The primary factor in the band’s dissolution was the departure of bassist Oliver Ackerman, who relocated to New York City, began building custom effects pedals and formed the awesome shoegazer combo A Place to Bury Strangers. However, the two remaining members of Skywave, Paul Baker and John Fedowitz, stuck together to form Ceremony, a noisy outfit of their own with a decidedly more pop-friendly sound. And while it’s that pop accessibility that makes debut album Rocket Fire unique, the duo can certainly hold their own when it comes to volume.
Rocket Fire is a loud record. A very loud record. It buzzes and screeches and squeals and shreds. Yet, for something so seemingly menacing, there are plenty of hooks to keep the listener’s interest, even when that audio assault is at full, piercing blast. Sharing more than a few similarities with their former bandmate’s post-punk edge in A Place to Bury Strangers, Ceremony also get by with more approachable melodies, like The Pains of Being Pure At Heart but with a much bigger arsenal.
With the opening waves of “Stars Fall,” Ceremony channels their fuzz through a gorgeous dream pop melody, Baker’s vocals swimming in effects just above a woozy mixture of overdrive. The vicious, careening “Never Make You Cry” takes a considerably different course, however, with razor sharp riffs substituting for the previous song’s dense sonic soup. The drum machine snap of “Breaking Up” is reminiscent of The Jesus And Mary Chain circa 1989 (a highly underrated period in their career), while “For Her Smile” is a sinister goth-rock standout, rich in feedback and melody. And “Marianne” is contrastingly one of the most chaotic and blown out tracks on the album, as well as one of the catchiest.
The initial shock of Ceremony’s unrelenting bombardment of noise doesn’t take long to wear off, though the impact never really lessens. However, beneath that fiery exterior is a gifted pop band, whose melodies are strong enough to fight their way through the din. Rocket Fire only runs a little longer than a half hour, but it’s probably best to give your ears a 25-minute cool down period before you play it again. And you will want to play it again.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.