ALBUM REVIEW – Florence + The Sphinx: Sumerian Ceremonials

Compilation albums of heavy rock bands covering popular songs is nothing new, and if anything seems to increasingly be the method du jour for labels to put over their talent. None, though, have had quite as bizarre a concept as this one – the sophomore record from Florence and the Machine, Ceremonials, covered by the finest Sumerian Records has to offer because… the boss of the label likes the album? The reasoning behind it remains bewildering, but records like this usually offer a few gems, and Florence + The Sphinx: Sumerian Ceremonials is no exception. However, again as with the majority of collections of this ilk, it’s a very hit and miss affair.

Proceedings begin with a strong showing thanks to a surprisingly faithful and pop-oriented version of ‘Only If For A Night’ by Periphery, vocalist Spencer Sotelo clearly taking the reins and showing how far his soaring cleans have come since he joined the band. Similarly strong is the one cut not originally from Ceremonials, ‘Dog Days Are Over’, given a fun hardcore makeover by Stick to Your Guns. From there, things get a little bumpy. ‘Spectrum’ and ‘Seven Devils’ by Darkest Hour and Born of Osiris respectively are both robbed of their teeth by awful production work and underwhelming instrumentation, while Come the Dawn seemingly attempt to ram two remixes together for their take on ‘What the Water Gave Me’, trying unsuccessfully to marry spiky metal and smooth pop.

On the other hand, a handful of the artists here seize the moment to truly make the song their own and come out with something great. Upon a Burning Body contribute a colossal rendition of ‘Lover to Lover’ that will only make anticipation for their next record build even more; Dead Letter Circus are typically esoteric and intriguing on ‘Remain Nameless’, doing their best with the weakest song from the original record; and the gorgeous folk-tinged duet on ‘Heartlines’ between Mike Semesky and guest Aleka Farha is an absolute peach. The most surprising success story is the best song of the lot; relative unknowns Fever Dreamer turning the already epic original album closer ‘Leave My Body’ into an arena-sized radio rock anthem that stands at the centre of Sumerian Ceremonials and outshines the rest of the bunch.

The remaining covers by Asking Alexandria’s Ben Bruce, Miss Fortune and City in the Sea are left to make up the numbers, failing to stand out as highlights or low points. Sumerian Ceremonials as a whole is an uneven listen by nature and the varying styles and genres make it a bit all over the place, but the songs are ordered well. Its best moments are rather good indeed; its worst are never awful, but do get rather tedious. A very intriguing idea then that’s been predictably inconsistent in execution, an LP with an EP’s worth of good material, as is often the case with compilations like this one. Now all that’s left is for another label to think of something even barmier –Rise Records does Edvard Grieg”, anyone?

Rating: 6/10

[Michael Bird]

‘Only If For A Night’

‘Leave My Body’

Sumerian

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