At the onset of Ceremonials, the second LP from songstress Florence Welch and her band the Machine, "Only For A Night" builds a massive energy out of an epic melodic construction, and it's really exciting. There is an ignition of the synapses, sparking and fizzing to a dizzying crescendo, as we anticipate Florence wailing over and over until she's done smashing our brains against the wall. Then we get "Shake It Out," which essentially does the same thing; builds up the melodic line to an explosion of sound and energy, brain bashing, etc. Emotions are running high. And then, "What The Water Gave Me" happens, another epic chorus, another in-your-face wail from Florence and the stakes are raised a little higher. Then the panic sets in. Are we running a marathon of "epic" songs here? Surely they can't all be mountains. Can you keep up if every song has the emotional weight of Titantic?
Ceremonials is a vice grip, continually tightening around your ears until your brain pops. That isn't to say it's a good or a bad thing; it's just not the usual pace for an entire album of songs meant to be listened to in one sitting. In fact, it's kind of hard to sit while listening to...like some radio-friendly power-ballad equivalent of an hour of Skrillex. Florence undoubtedly realized the power of her scorching breakout track "Dog Days," and the band is definitely at its best when they're really giving it to the listener with a climactic flair. So, holding nothing back, Florence and the Machine have made an entire record of "Dog Days,"—songs that must be fun as shit to play, and are all chock full of dizzying highs.
Make no mistake, this isn't a record you just casually put on in the local supermarket. It's agonizing. Ceremonials will make any situation feel ten times as massive. The intensity commands attention and requires dedication, the kind of slack-jawed disbelief usually reserved for natural disasters and Michael Bay movies. Put it on in any car ride and it instantly becomes a cross-country drive to see a lost love. Put it on while you're walking home and you feel like you should be shouting it from a rooftop with an arial camera shot. Ceremonials sounds like an entire album of songs eliciting the feeling you get every time the Death Star blows up.
In small doses, the record feels as expansive as intended—big, bold choruses flush with Florence's beautiful voice, choral chants and energy you can cut with a knife. But more than four songs at a time feels like an exercise, and it's exhausting. I had to take a nap after the first full listen of the deluxe edition. Florence has constructed a really rewarding collection of pop tunes, and each one deserves its own platform. But putting them all on one pedestal is a bit heavy, even for the most seasoned listener. Approach with Red Bull.