After taking the music world by storm with her debut album 'Lungs' back in 2009, Florence and the Machine's highly anticipated follow up has finally been unleashed in the form of 'Ceremonials'. The first album brought us dramatic crescendos, macabre lyrics and striking beats and whilst these elements remain, the overall sound is more mature and developed. You can say what you like about Florence Welch but one thing you most certainly can't accuse this songstress of is doing things by halves.
The general tone of 'Ceremonials' is slower and more tormented than her previous material. Opener 'Only If For A Night' features purposeful yet sporadic piano keys that provide a solid foundation for the track as well as a stark contrast to Welch's spectral, higher pitched vocals. Lead single 'Shake It Out' is one of the stand-out tracks and successfully encompasses the two sides to Florence & the Machine's sound. Eerily desolate instrumentals stand alongside lyrics that portray the darkest elements of the human soul. Yet, at the same time, we're exposed to soaring vocals that exhilarate the listener and empowering lyrical messages such as, "It's hard to dance with a devil on your back/So shake him off" and "I am done with my graceless heart/So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart". Sombre undeniably, but the positive stance enables the music to retain its accessibility.
'What The Water Gave Us' and 'Never Let Me Go' continue this trend, with more mellow verses morphing into bursting choruses; an arrangement that has become somewhat of an unconscious trademark for the band. Meanwhile, 'Lover To Lover' takes an interesting turn as the anguish vanishes and an almost gospel-like tone takes its place. Only the vocals at this point really define who owns this track, and it's an appealing detour for the band to have taken. Fans of the forlorn needn't worry however, as the more recognisable sounds reappear in the remaining tracks.
With 'Ceremonials', Florence & the Machine have provided more of the commanding sound that garnered them acclaim originally. One element this album lacks in comparison to 'Lungs' is the repetitive aspect to some songs, which in turn created an anthemic feel. However, this should be seen as a positive indication of Welch's development as a musician. Arguably, there is plenty of room for experimentation but there are indications of this occurring already. The third album will ultimately demonstrate Welch's ability to tackle the more unfamiliar, or see her rest on her laurels. Either way, Florence's future will make for an intriguing listen.