Dead Can Dance: “Dead Can Dance”
Secondhand Vinyl Album: (Purchased at Total Drag Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date: 1984 4AD
My Rating: (4 Stars)
The Fatal Impact
East Of Eden
A Passage In Time
Wild In The Woods
I want to begin this review by admitting that I’m not an expert in regards to Goth music. However, it seems to be a genre that I’m often drawn to and I find this occurrence almost as mysterious as the music itself. To clarify, I often relate the Goth sound to stark instrumental arrangements, accompanied by undecipherable monotonous singing. While I’m open to giving even the artsiest piece of crap at least one spin on my turntable, I have to admit that some experimental giants in the music industry are simply above my head. It’s been my experience that the Goth scene possesses more than a few of these types of artists. Yet, I constantly find myself coming back for more in some kind of effort to gain access to a world that I can’t seem to fully understand. I mean, for God’s sake I don’t even like to wear black that often.
Keeping this in mind, I would like to state that the self-titled album by Dead Can Dance is a true Goth record I can honestly enjoy…after I trained myself to appreciate the more subtle aspects of music, like percussion and tempo…throughout the course of about twenty listens. What I’m saying here is an album like, “Dead Can Dance,” is intellectual music and requires a little patience from its' listener. Of course, some of us nonintellectual types don’t use a lot of head space thinking. Therefore, we have a lot of down time to practice patience. I can honestly state now, “Boy, am I glad I had all that time!”
As soon as this album began with the instrumental song, “Fatal Impact,” it became clear to this listener that I was going to be reviewing an album unlike any I've written about up to this point. Many of the records I've reviewed on this blog have revolved around narrative based music, otherwise known as songs that tell a story through lyrics. Despite the fact the album, "Dead Can Dance," has two lead vocalists perform on it, I believe the instrumental introduction to this record best defines their signature sound. Here a listener is confronted with hollow drum beats and faint noises that this blogger can only compare to the sounds of a whipping wind. Instantly, this music feels raw and almost primal. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the band chose the imagery of a tribal mask for this album’s cover art.
The album then continues with its’ second song, “The Trial,” which initially was a major let down for this listener, considering I anticipated an extraordinary voice to accompany such unique sounds. However, I found the utterances of vocalist, Brendan Perry, to be exactly what I’ve previously encountered with the Goth genre. I ask you, “Why do Goth’s always have to sound bored?! I mean, what could be more brooding than a good hard scream? I always thought emotion was shown by intonation.” Unfortunately, I found Perry’s vocal performance during, “The Trial,” to be just another monotonous Goth stereotype and I began to feel like I may be in for one unremarkable ride.
Luckily, I was wrong due to the fact that Dead Can Dance had another singer by the name of Lisa Gerrard. While I’ll state that this albums’ strengths are definitely owed to its’ percussive arrangements, I will admit that the presence of Gerrard’s voice was also a major attribute. During the song, “Ocean,” it’s Gerrard’s wails that again return a listener back to the primitive world introduced in the beginning of this album. Her voice is reminiscent of the waves this songs' title eludes too, spawning feelings of mystery regarding the earth and its natural elements. It doesn’t seem to matter that a listener can’t understand a word this vocalist is singing. All that matters while listening to a song like, “Ocean,” is the mood being created.
Gerrard’s talent is again showcased during songs like the weighty, “Musica Eternal.” Here, instruments this blogger can’t even define create the haunting echo of something akin to music. I can only describe this songs' sound as reminiscent of the euphoric calm one feels right before falling asleep. In fact, this blogger found herself doing exactly that more often than once while listening to this album. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t because I was bored by the music. In fact, I would say a more accurate description would be I was lulled. Between the mysterious sounds created by the combination of synthesizers and Gerrard’s voice, this blogger felt eased into almost another reality. In this reality there were no such things as stress or time. In fact, I would argue that time is a concept the band Dead Can Dance is not acquainted with, considering at no point during this record could a listener guess when this album was recorded. I guess that’s the beauty of Goth, it’s so abstract it transcends time. No wonder black has always been such a popular color.
Musica Eternal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12AcQvEMNgI