Some might call it ‘legendary’, but actually, isn’t that the truth for (almost) each release back then?
Anyway, Ceremonial Oath were a Death-outfit from the Swedish Old School Wave. The band was originally formed at the end of the eighties as Desecrator. They did record two demo tapes, Wake The Dead and Black Sermons, before changing their moniker into Ceremonial Oath. As Ceremonial Oath, the band recorded a 7”EP (vinyl only), followed by two full lengths, The Book Of Truth (1993) and the sad mistake called Carpet (1995); the latter through Swedish Death Metal label Black Sun Records. Then thing went silent.
All this material has now been compiled on a double-album, including an extensive booklet with liner notes, lots of photo material etc. The reason? Well, apparently the guys reunited in 2012, so I guess there will be new material later this year???
Disc 1 features The Book Of Truth, Ceremonial Oath’s debut full length studio album, initially released through French label Modern Primitive Records in 1993. The material was sold out a long time ago, and that is why this re-release might be interesting for those who are melancholically dreaming about the glorious past of Sweden’s supremacy. The stuff was recorded by members Oscar Dronjak, Anders Iwers, Jesper Strömblad and Markus Nordberg, whom you might know, after Ceremonial Oath split up, from well-known acts like Tiamat, In Flames, HammerFall or Cemetary. The album was not done at Tomas Skogsberg’s Sunlight Studio (so was the Desecrator-material), yet at the Rainy Day Studio by Ingmar Gunnard (whom I had never heard of before, nor afterwards anymore) and Fredrik Nordström – one of the first things this multi-experienced producer / mixer / engineer ever did. It’s this guy who remixed this re-issue, by the way, and who contributed as guest musician, providing some keyboard lines.
The Book Of Truth continued the path once started with the demo / EP Lost Name Of God (see below). It means material in the vein of Desecrator’s second demo tape (see below as well), i.e. Thrash-edged Metal, yet without the Black-laden elements (even though the grunts do have a certain blackish timbre, and the atmosphere might be as oppressive too from time to time), but translated into the sound and structures the Swedish scene was known for back then. Beware: Ceremonial Oath did have an own sound, an own approach; they did evolve into a self-created entity without copying any other band (even though one cannot ignore the influences from several colleagues back then either). Some material on the album was written before, now re-adapted; i.e. the songs from Desecrator’s Black Sermons were re-arranged, and so are the tracks from the 1991-EP.
The second disc opens with both demos once recorded as Desecrator. Wake The Dead dates from 1989 and shows another side of the band. Back then, Desecrator were rather Speed / Thrash-oriented, injected by elements from Hellhammer / early Celtic Frost, Venom and the likes. The Swedeath-approach was yet to come, even though the band originated from the Gothenburg-era. Oscar and Anders played with another vocalist and drummer back then (respectively Marcus Fredriksson, who took care of the bass parts as well, and Ulf Assarsson). The vocals had nothing to do with grunts yet, but were somewhat silly (despite a certain roughness). In spite of the primitive approach, the songs came with a technical craftsmanship, and the sound too was, for that time, more than acceptable. Not that strange, for nobody else but Tomas Skogsberg produced the stuff.
The second demo, Black Sermons, was produced and mixed by Mister Skogsberg too in his legendary Sunlight Studios, and it was the first stuff with newly recruited drummer Markus Nordberg, formerly of Death Metal act Braindead. The musical change was enormous yet beyond expectations! The style on this second tape was Thrash / Black-influenced, evil, obscure and grim, with a certain, even though modest influence of the Swedish Death Metal sound (Sunlight, as said before). …rather the Bathory / Samael / Tormentor-way… This evolution was nothing but good news. Another remarkable fact was the duration of the songs: much longer (Necrosis even comes near nine minutes), yet with a fine variety in melody and tempo. And one cannot forget the limited yet, at that time not that usual, addition of some atmospheric keyboard lines. This demo must be one of the strongest tapes from 1990 for sure.
Disc 2 ends with both tracks from the magnificent Lost Name Of God-EP. It was the first material done under their new moniker, Ceremonial Oath (now also joined by Jesper Strömblad), and sort of a missing link in between the second Desecrator-demo and what would be the sound of Ceremonial Oath on their first full length. The stuff was originally supposed to be a promo-tape, but it got re-issued through the French label Corpse Grinder Records. Interesting fact: the backing vocals on For I Have Sinned were done by the so-called The Dead Boys Choir, which consisted of Anders and Markus, yet also Tiamat’s Johan Edlund and Tomas Petersson.