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Dead Can Dance - The Serpent's Egg CD (album) cover

THE SERPENT'S EGG

Dead Can Dance

 

Prog Folk

3.85 | 141 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars “The Serpent’s Egg” marked the first (and only) time Dead Can Dance produced an album consisting of nothing much more than chants and strings. This wasn’t totally surprising or innovative in their case, as their previous ‘Within the Realm of a Dying Sun’ was heavy on wind instruments and their first featured both of them playing those odd yang t'chin things. So there was a precedence of experimentation in their sound despite the fact that most of the Dead Can Dance albums sound rather similar in their gothic/drone/chant persistence.

One of those stringed instruments is a bit unusual this time though. Brendan Perry plays a hurdy-gurdy on several tracks, an instrument whose droning capabilities seems to lend itself quite well to a band like this. Besides that there is a string section consisting of a couple each of violins and violas, as well as a cello that I have a tough time distinguishing from the hurdy-gurdy much of the time. About the only other instrumentation is from occasional drums and some percussion (mostly bells).

Lisa Gerrard started to work her way east with her hypnotic contralto on “Summoning of the Muse” from ‘Within the Realm’, but on this album the Eastern influences are strong and pervasive. There’s also some hint of ancient religious chamber music in her voice, apparent right from the start with the opening “The Host of Seraphim” and only letting up on the few tracks where Perry’s voice is the dominant one (“Severance”, “In the Kingdom of the Blind”, “Ullyses”). Otherwise the album seems more like the Lisa Gerrard show, complete with string section. Perry’s role is notably diminished from previous releases.

The two tracks that stand out for me are “Song of Sophia” with its Ofra Haza-like deep-throated wailing from Gerrard (way too short this one); and the undulating “Mother Tongue” which I think actually got some airplay on college radio since the band was still sort of popular with the twenty-something club crowd at the time.

This is not my favorite Dead Can Dance album – the one just before it gets that nod. But it is one of their better works thanks to the lush strings and drone from the hurdy-gurdy that, although understated most of the time, gives the album a sense of continuity that some that would follow it lacked.

This was also the swan-song for Gerrard and Perry’s personal relationship, and when the reassembled for the stark ‘Aion’ release a couple years later it was as business partners, not lovers. With this kind of music the difference wasn’t all the noticeable though.

Three stars I suppose for a consistent and well-orchestrated release, but not one that expanded on the band’s sound or mystique much. I would have liked to have seen a concept album or at least a lengthy epic track at this point in their career, but such was not meant to be. Too bad.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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